From Academic Kids

Literally, self-hatred refers to an extreme dislike of oneself, or being angry at oneself. The term is also used to designate a dislike or hatred of a group to which one belongs. For instance, 'ethnic self-hatred' is the extreme dislike of one's ethnic group. Some people are concerned that accusations of self-hatred are used inappropriately as an ad hominem attack to avoid a rational debate.

The term 'self-hatred' is used infrequently by psychologists and psychiatrists, who would usually describe people who hate themselves as 'persons with low self-esteem'. Some people think that self-hatred and shame are important factors in some or many mental disorders, especially disorders that involve a perceived defect of oneself (e.g. male erectile disorder, body dysmorphic disorder). "Ethnic self-hatred" is considered by some people as being a cultural issue, to which psychological theories have limited relevance.


Types of self-hatred

The term Self-hatred can refer to either a strong dislike for oneself, one's actions, or a strong dislike or hatred of one's own race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Personal self-hatred

Personal self-hatred is similar to self-loathing and can result in an inferiority complex. Some sociology theorists such as Jerry Mander see television programming as being deliberately designed to induce self-hatred, negative body image, and depression, with the advertising then being used to suggest the cure [1] ( See also the arguments related to the Kill your television phenomenon.

Jewish self-hatred

In Jewish self-hatred a person exhibits a strong shame or hatred of their Jewish identity, of other Jews, or of the Jewish religion. This may result from feelings of inferiority brought upon by anti-Semitism they have suffered in the past. This can lead to attempts to distance themselves from their Jewish identity by avoiding activities and styles of dress and appearance currently or traditionally associated with Jewish people. They may also attempt to adopt the behavior patterns and characteristics more predominantly associated with Gentiles. In some cases a Jew will not only distance themselves from other Jews but actually engage in discrimination against others Jews. A famous instance of this happening was the case of Daniel Burros who repudiated his Jewish background and joined the Ku Klux Klan, eventually rising to Grand Dragon status, until he committed suicide after the New York Times reported that he was, in fact, Jewish. The film "The Believer" was loosely based on his life. This phenomenon may also contribute to what has been dubbed the Silent Holocaust of modern assimilated Jews in free societies. Based on his widely publicized anti-Semitic statements, Bobby Fischer could be considered another example.

Professor Sander L. Gilman of the University of Illinois-Chicago defines Jewish Self-Hatred as:

"...the internalization of the negative stereotypes about who you are--the identification with the reference group's image of you as "the other" in society. The person who is labeled as different wants to find out why he or she fits the stereotype, or to prove that he/she does not. But the more one attempts to identify with societal definitions in order to fit in, the more one accepts the attitudes of the determining group, the farther away from true acceptability one seems to be."

According to the professor, the term self-hating Jew comes from a disagreement over the validity of the Jewish reform movement between neo-Orthodox Jews of the Breslau seminary in Germany and Reform Jews in the 19th century. Some neo-Orthodox Jews viewed reform Jews as inauthentic Jews under the perceived notion that the Reformers identified with German Protestantism and German nationalism. In response, some Reform Jews labeled the neo-Orthodox Jews "self-haters" in return. Today there is still a serious schism between Orthodox and Reform Judaism, but the rhetoric has changed; most Orthodox and Reform Jews do not refer to each other as self-hating Jews.

One of the problems with defining Jewish self-hatred is defining what it means to be a Jew and thus what it means for a Jew to hate himself. Some Zionists define Jews who support most forms of anti-Zionism as self-hating.

The term self-hatred has been applied by a large segment of the Jewish community against a number of Jewish authors who have written material that the Jewish community considers anti-Semitic. The Anti-Defamation League's report on The Talmud and Anti-Semitism states:

In distorting the normative meaning of rabbinic texts, anti-Talmud writers frequently remove passages from their textual and historical context....Those who attack the Talmud frequently cite ancient rabbinic sources without noting subsequent developments in Jewish thought....Are the polemicists Anti-Semites? This is a charged term that should not be used lightly, but the answer, by and large, is yes. Now and then a polemicist of this type may have been born Jewish, but their systematic distortion of the ancient texts, always in the direction of portraying Judaism negatively, their lack of interest in good-faith efforts to understand contemporary Judaism from contemporary Jews, and their dimissal of any voices opposing their own, suggests that their goal in reading ancient rabbinic literature is to produce the Frankenstein version of Judaism that they invariable claim to have uncovered." (See report linked below)

Black self-hatred

Black self-hatred is generally defined as a Black person who hates his Black racial identity and may try to distance himself from this identity. Like Jewish self-hate, there is some disagreement as to what it means to be Black. Some Black people feel that those who demonstrate a preference for clothing styles, music choices, etc. that have been predominantly associated with white culture are self-hating. Thus for them being Black is more just one’s skin color. Some, such as journalist John Carlson, have suggested that gangsta rap is a form of Black Self-hatred. In his view, when Black rappers portray Black women as "bitches" and "whores" and Black men as "worthy of respect only in relation to their capacity to kill or maim others" they are essentially expressing a form of self-hate with basically buying into and propagating, through their music, racist stereotypes about Black people.

Gay self-hatred

A self-hating homosexual would be a gay person who actively supports efforts to limit the civil rights of gays or either openly criticizes or openly engages in homophobic behavior. Famous examples include Roy Cohn, Jeff Gannon, and the ex-Mayor of Spokane, Washington Jim West. The groundbreaking 1970 movie The Boys in the Band depicted gay characters engaged in and reacting to self-hatred. Some argue that latent homosexual tendencies, when repressed, often lead to homophobic actions

Self-injury as self-hatred

Self-harm is a psychological disorder involving self-hatred where the subject feels compelled to physically injure themselves.

Controversy over the definition and use of the label self-hatred

The proper definition of self-hatred, especially from a racial perspective, has been controversial. The biggest controversy centers on definition and appropriate use, if any, of the label "self hating Jew". Leftist Jews such as rabbi Michael Lerner and Noam Chomsky have charged that some pro-Israel advocates define and apply the label in a manner designed to silence or discredit any Jew who disagrees with their politics regarding Israel.

One example cited by some as an abuse of the “self-hating” label is its use by the creators of the website (, who have labeled the liberal Rabbi Michael Lerner a "pitiful self-hating weasel" in what he and his supporters charge is an attempt to discredit him for not maintaining unqualified support of Israel. For instance, Lerner has blamed Arial Sharon as well as Arafat for the failed peace process.

Another example where this abuse has been said to occur was in relation to Ward Connerly, an African-American businessman and University of California Regent. Connerly vigorously led a campaign opposing affirmative action in California and later across the country. Some affirmative action supporters claim he and other Black people opposed to affirmative action are denying the positive benefits they have received via affirmative action, and thus are self-hating Blacks. Connerly's supporters argue that affirmative action is a form of reverse racism that ultimately is bad for Black people and prevents society from becoming truly color blind, an ideal goal in their view.

Professor Sander L. Gilman of the University of Illinois-Chicago rejects the notion that all or most Jewish critics of Israel are self-hating. In his view, if a Jew actively opposes the Jewish state under the belief that Jews, as a group, are incapable of national self-determination then it would likely be applicable. On the other hand, if a Jew only opposes specific policies and not the existence of Israel as a whole then that would not necessarily be self-hatred so long as their position changes along with any changes that occur in Israeli and Palestinian policy and direction. If his or her point of view continues to remain fixated, it might very well be reasonable to apply the label "self-hating".

See also

Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Zionism, Racism, Affirmative action


  • Henry Bean The Believer: Confronting Jewish Self-Hatred, Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002 (Deals with Daniel Burros and the movie The Believer)
  • Is Black self-hatred racist? John Carlson, Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, Feb. 9 1994.
  • The stars & stripes of David David Biale, The Nation, 5/4/1998
  • Sander L. Gilman Jewish Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and the Hidden Language of the Jews, Johns Hopkins University Press; Reprint edition 1990
  • Sander L. Gilman Difference and Pathology: Stereotypes of Sexuality, Race and Madness Cornell University Press, 1985

External references

Jewish self-hatred

Black self-hatred


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