Saturday, July 03, 2004


Hatred of One's Own Race

Whenever I visit the blog The Joy of Knitting, I find food for thought, and so it is with the series of posts dated July 1, 2004, where the word 'Islamophobia-phobia' is defined as "fear of saying or doing anything that might be construed as an insult to the most hypersensitive bunch of people that ever walked the earth." Joy goes on to discuss "the disgust of whites felt by whites," for which she considers, but rejects, the word 'leukophobia' (fear of the color white), because it refers primarily to objects rather than people.

The tendency to hate one's own race is of course not restricted to whites, and a more general term might be useful. I have seen the word 'auto-racism' used in this connection, but it does not strike me as satisfactory. The usual dictionary definition of 'racism' is "the notion that one's own racial stock is superior" (The American Heritage Dictionary). Therefore 'auto-racism' is little more than a tautology, since the prefix 'auto' comes from the Greek pronoun 'autos,' meaning 'one's self,' and adds nothing to the meaning of 'racism.'

In attempting to coin a word meaning "hatred of one's own race," we might instead start out with the prefix 'miso,' from the Greek verb meaning 'hate.' English words incorporating this root are 'misogyny' (hatred of women), 'misanthropy' (hatred of humankind), 'misology' (hatred of reason), 'misogamy' (hatred of marriage), 'misoneism' (hatred of change or innovation), etc.

For 'one's own,' the root 'auto' is good. It appears in many English words, for example 'automobile,' which is a self-propelled vehicle.

Since 'miso' and 'auto' are Greek roots, let's pick another classical root meaning 'race.' Greek 'genos' and Latin 'gens' are related, and they are familiar to English speakers from their presence in words like 'genetics,' 'genotype,' 'progeny,' etc.

Putting these three roots all together, we arrive at the neologism 'misautogeny' as a possible word meaning "hatred of one's own race." I'm not entirely happy with it, because 'autogeny' is already a technical term in biology, but I offer it as one possibility. The phenomenon is a widespread one nowadays, and it calls for its own word.

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