Understanding Hate

Craig Stephen Hicks at an April 6th court hearing.
Reema Khrais

The murder of three Muslim American students in Chapel Hill in February 2015 became world news as the victims’ families and many onlookers identified the shootings as an act of hatred against their religion.

Photo: Mohammed Elgamal, chairman of the Islamic Association of Raleigh, and leaders from national Muslim advocacy organizations.
Jorge Valencia

When three young Muslim people were killed in a Chapel Hill apartment last week, their families, friends and advocates from around the world said they knew why: Their neighbor shot them because he hated their religion.

Chapel Hill police didn’t deny that claim, but didn’t validate it either. Within a day of the shooting, authorities said the neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, had been disgruntled over a parking space.

As it turns out, there are wide discrepancies between establishing a hate crime in a court room and a hate crime in the court of public opinion.

“Hate” is one of those words that gets thrown around recklessly in everyday conversation, but sometimes when we say it, we mean it. What is hatred and why do we feel it? Is it an emotion unique to humans? And why does hatred often lead to violence?