There’s a lot of hate in the world. UCLA’s scholars are asking why and what can be done

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UCLA is launching the Initiative to Study Hate, an ambitious social impact project that brings together a broad consortium of scholars to understand and ultimately mitigate hate in its multiple forms.

Supported by a $3 million gift from an anonymous donor, researchers will undertake 23 projects this year. The three-year pilot spans topics that examine the neurobiology of hate, the impact of social media hate speech on kids, the dehumanization of unhoused individuals, racial discrimination in health care settings and more.

“Hate is so pervasive in our world that it almost seems too daunting to take up,” said David Myers, the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Professor of Jewish History, who serves as director of the initiative. “But we believe that this is exactly the kind of big question that a great public university like ours must seek answers to. This new initiative aims to understand how and why hate functions as it does.

“We’re interested in hate as it takes rise in groups and is transmitted from generation to generation, but we are also exploring how hate takes rise in the individual’s brain. Our ultimate aim is to do all that we can to mitigate or minimize hatred in individuals and groups.”

The initiative is the latest effort to support research and actions in an effort to build more just and humane societies, such as the Bedari Kindness Institute, the Center for Critical Internet Inquiry, Center for the Study of Women and ongoing social impact work from scholars in UCLA’s Institute of American Cultures, which for more than 50 years has led campus efforts to uplift marginalized communities.

Creation of the initiative comes at a particularly fraught time. Rising political and economic tensions and a global pandemic have led to increased expressions of hate. Meanwhile, longstanding structures of power often perpetuate bias, stigma and enmity.

“Hate directed at certain people and groups has unfortunately been a common theme throughout human history,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “This interdisciplinary initiative will contribute much to our understanding of group hate — and more than that, will help us overcome it.”

Read more on UCLA Newsroom.