After the Sikh Temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, on the morning of August 5, 2012 many questions have been raised. For example: Why neo-Nazi Wade Michael Page chose Sikhs as his victims?
Eric Holder, the US Attorney General denounced this crime as “an act of terrorism, an act of hatred, a hate crime,” though we still don’t know if these crimes were motivated by racial and/or religious bias.
The American Psychological Society describes the hate crime as: “…. not only an attack on one’s self but it is an attack on one’s identity”. It is important to put the facts about hate-crimes in the context of the APS’s description. The psychological motivation of a hate criminal is to attack the identity of his victim and given the history of hate-crimes against the Sikhs these brand of crimes have largely been directed against Sikhs who have distinct visible appearance adorned in turban and beard.
Many have raised one question if Page had mistaken Sikhs for Muslims however, this simplifies the rationalization of hate crimes against Sikhs and has an inherent irony pointed out by the Daily Herald (August 10, 2012) that we do not need to know the difference between Sikhs and Muslims or anyone else to know that it is wrong to assault them. Secondly, accepting violence against Sikhs rationalized against Muslims reinforces the bias in understanding the social psychology of organized hatred and further denies the abused an attack over his/her own personal identity. Conversely, what the victim experiences becomes less important than what the person rationalizing the attack believes.
It thus not only leaves away what the victim believes but also the examination of psychology of hatred in the today’s multicultural America that describes some as American while others not. In particular, the examination of uncivil political rhetoric that is already beginning to take the form of political legibility in providing organized hate groups a renewed sense of validation as well as approval of their hatred towards the “other” often becomes obscured by the way hatred is rationalized.
It is true that in America we are free to hate anyone. However, shouldn’t we ask: Is it not the social imperative of a society to invalidate hatred from being perpetuated into a rhetoric and a social psychology which is otherwise not stoppable constitutionally? The ironic validation of hatred faced by one group is that it seems to be rationalized by others as specific to a particular group that faces hatred. This is not to suggest that hatred doesn’t has a specific anti-racial or anti-religious bias towards a targeted group but hatred in general has broader implications and is nothing less than a moral assault on our entire society. When a neo-Nazi hate band curses at the Jews and Blacks, does this hatred applies to Jews and Blacks only? No, this hatred applies against us all. In other words, hatred is morally all inclusive. It is the psychology of moral exclusion when we don’t see hatred against others as a moral assault on ourselves also.
Contrary to that, therefore, it is interesting to note the politics of moral exclusion displayed by the extremist right in averting from deploring the massacre as if Sikhs who got massacred were outside the moral boundaries of society and therefore, the considerations of fairness and justice do not apply to them. The condemnation of neo-Nazism and White Nationalism was nowhere heard from the right wing anchors who have millions of listeners.
The impact of rhetoric of moral exclusion can’t be undermined on sociopaths like Page who don’t have the sense of moral differentiation between right and wrong. Page’s mass-killing of the Sikhs was ultimately done in the name of hatred against humanity. The fact of the matter that should take the next precedence is the realization about the instrumental application of hatred in validating a social psychology against Americans who are perceived to be less American.
Harmeet Singh is a Scientist and resides in Chicago, IL