There’s something about certain symbols that just exudes nothing but negativity. The moment you look at them, it instantaneously registers in your mind that you should do everything in your power to stay away from it. Whether it be an old superstition or an image drenched in historical hatred and oppression, most people would agree that there are some symbols that aren’t worth so much as a second glance.
This one is a no-brainer, everyone and their mother recognizes the swastika as the apex of hatred and intolerance in the 20th and 21st centuries. The swastika had already existed for thousands of years throughout virtually every corner of the globe in some shape or form. Unfortunately, once Hitler appropriated it as the symbol of the Nazi party in 1920, and made it the national flag of Germany in 1933, the swastika forever became tied to the ideology of Aryan superiority and white supremacy which still resonates today.
2. Confederate Flag
There have been many battle flags, state flags, and national flags that were associated with the short-lived era of the Confederate States of America. But the one that is most commonly recognized is the battle flag of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The primary narrative of the flag being a symbol of “southern pride” and “state rights” is often pretty hush-hush when it comes to the little details of what kind of “state rights” they’re talking about. Small details like the flag being a clear symbol of states having the right to own slaves, or its revival by the Dixiecrats during the 1950’s and 1960’s as a sign of opposition against the Civil Rights Movement. Some folks can tiptoe and bullshit all they want about the true meaning of the flag, but anyone with half a brain can tell you that the Confederate flag has and always will represent institutionalized racism.
3. 4 (number four)
Okay, so perhaps avoiding the number four for your entire life is probably impossible, but at the very least, don’t make it your lucky number. In many East Asian nations, the spelling and pronunciation of the word for four is very similar to the word for death, which is specific to Chinese, Sino-Korean, Sino-Vietnamese, and Sino-Japanese languages. It’s not uncommon in these cultures for people to take special precautions to avoid the number four, especially during holidays or when a family member is sick. In fact, some apartments in Hong Kong even go as far as removing floors 40 through 49 from their elevators.
4. Black Sun
Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS and the main architect of the Holocaust, formulated this symbol in 1933 and placed it in Wewelsburg Castle which he intended to be the headquarters of the SS. While the origins of the black sun are still somewhat of a mystery, some believe that the symbol was inspired by the sun wheels used by Germanic pagan tribes. Perhaps the most unnerving aspect about this symbol are its ties to Nazi occultism, seeing as Wewelsburg Castle was the epicenter of occult research and rituals during the reign of the Third Reich. Today it can be seen on the shirts, signs, armbands, and flags of numerous neo-Nazi, white nationalist, and alt-right factions throughout the world.
5. Blood Drop Cross
Since the end of the Civil War, the sight of the Blood Drop Cross has struck fear and dread in the hearts and minds of millions of people in the U.S. During their revival, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), as we know them today, didn’t adopt the symbol until the early 1900’s. It was during the creation of the Second Klan that the group expanded their reign of terror and doctrine of hate from exclusively African Americans to also including Catholics, Jews, and foreign-born immigrants. Despite the KKK’s decline in popularity in the last hundred years, the Blood Drop Cross is still a harbinger of beatings, lynching’s, and burning crosses for the most vulnerable in our society.
6. Scientology Cross
The Scientology Cross is perhaps the most recognizable symbol of the Church of Scientology. The eight points of the cross are meant to represent the eight dynamics of Scientology: the self, family, community, humankind, life, the physical universe, spirit, and infinity. On the surface that sounds nice, but in reality these core beliefs are nothing more than a recruiting mechanism. The Church of Scientology has a long and well-documented history of exploiting, harassing, abusing, and assaulting not only their critics, but their own followers as well. There’s a reason why countries throughout Europe and South America have designated them a dangerous cult.
7. Othala Rune
The origins of the Othala rune can be traced as far back as the 2nd century as part of the runic alphabet for both Germanic and Anlgo-Saxon tribes. This is attributed to the fact that the Elder Futhark, the Germanic runic alphabet and the oldest known form of the runic alphabet, was later encompassed into the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc. Because of this, the Othala rune has similar meanings in both runic alphabets; in the Elder Futhark it roughly translates into “heritage, estate, possession”, while in the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc it means “estate, homeland”. But much like the swastika and black sun, it was later twisted into a more sinister meaning when it became the symbol of SS military divisions during World War II. In modern day, it’s used as the emblem of numerous white supremacist groups around the world, most notably by the National Socialist Movement (NSM), the largest and most active neo-Nazi organization in the U.S.
8. 13 (Number of Thirteen)
Most people in western culture are well-aware of the unlucky associations implied with the number 13. Although, the origins of the superstition are debatable. Some believe that it stems from the story of Judas’s betrayal of Jesus in which he was the 13th person to sit at the table during the Last Supper. Others believe that it goes even farther back to the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi and the myth of the omitted 13th law. Perhaps the most famous case of unlucky 13 in history was the arrest of the Knights Templar by King Phillip IV of France which occurred on Friday, October 13, 1307. Belief in unlucky 13 was so prominent that in 1881, a group of influential New Yorkers formed the Thirteen Club to put an end to the superstition among others; their membership included five future U.S. presidents.
9. MAGA (Make America Great Again)
Unlike most of the symbols on this list that are officially designated as hate symbols by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), MAGA is somewhat of an outlier. While it’s not officially labeled as one, it has all the same negative connotations attached to it. If anything, it’s quite possibly the grand unifier of all these hate symbols. When you see people waving around a Confederate flag, chances are they’re most likely wearing MAGA hats too. When you see white supremacists sporting swastika armbands, some form of MAGA can probably be spotted within their vicinity. Hell, it’s already damn near impossible to distinguish between a MAGA rally and a white supremacist rally as is. Those who focus too much on the semantics of what constitutes as a hate symbol often ignore the reality of its use. If it looks like a hate symbol, sounds like a hate symbol, and acts like a hate symbol, it’s probably a hate symbol.
If and when you ultimately see the kind of people who affiliate themselves with these symbols, just remember to see them for what they really are: relics. Much like the symbols they flaunt ever so loudly, these people are from time periods that no longer exist, desperately clinging on to the crumbling remnants of what makes them feel powerful. However, unlike these people, these symbols will continue to live on as they have centuries and millenniums prior. They will act as a reminder of a time long ago when there were still people who treated ethnicity like competitive sports rather than treating it like yet another reason to celebrate the shared experience of what it means to be a human being.