Combating Hate Through Young Adult Literature

Rachel Dean-Ruzicka


Young adult literature can help readers look beyond tolerance toward a cosmopolitan ethics of difference as a more sophisticated position for combating hatred. In popular discourse, the ideal of tolerance is generally presented uncritically and deployed as the best response to a perceived difference in another. However, the ideal of tolerance presents many problems. Rather than discouraging hatred, tolerance merely asks us not to act upon related feelings. Additionally, tolerance is often deployed not only as an idealized set of behaviors, but also as a moral imperative. Thus tolerance encourages cultural relativism where we are expected to be tolerant of all views, no matter how troubling. This essay argues that to discourage hate and violence, we must criticize underlying values that evoke them. Young adult fiction that deals with white supremacist characters creates an interesting lens for evaluating how neo-Nazis can be seen as standing at the very limits of tolerance, as well as how texts with neo-Nazi characters can be used as tools to assess values that are not worth living by. Reading these fictional texts may help to discourage in young adults the development of hatred while fostering a cosmopolitan ethics of difference that stands in opposition to the presumed morality of tolerance.

Full Text: