The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. who nod
~ SPOILER ALERT ~
This review will be very different from most because I feel obligated to go into detail about certain things and really talk about the importance of this novel. I’m going to break down certain topics in the book with hopes of providing some prospective and starting a discussion.
I’m going to go ahead and jump into the story – Khalil didn’t have to die. He should not have died. He was unarmed and he wasn’t a threat. Sure, he was kind of being an asshole but he had a right to know why he was being pulled over. The crazy thing is that he died because he wanted to make sure that Starr was okay. That’s it. Even if officer 119 did think that Khalil was reaching for a gun, one shot was enough to stop him from doing whatever he was doing. Were the other two shots necessary? No. The only acceptable answer to that question, is no.
There was also no reason for 119 to hold his gun on Starr. She’s already distraught because she watched her best friend die, why make it worse?
Even when Starr is in the police station, you can see the issue within law enforcement. They weren’t asking for the truth. They were asking leading questions to try to get Starr to say what they wanted to hear.
Then of course the media has to point out that he may have been a drug dealer because then who cares if he’s dead right? They may have been able to find that out but they had no idea why he was doing it or that he actually wanted out but, more on that later.
Hailey is the epitome of white feminism and why it’s a problem. You can’t talk about uplifting women but then turn around and say racist shit as if women of color don’t count. Being friends with people of color doesn’t exempt you from being racist. You don’t get a pass. She was also way more concerned with her image than with the fact that she had actually said racist things on multiple occasions. Her apology to Starr was bullshit. You can’t say “I’m sorry you feel hurt” and think it’s okay. You have to be sorry for causing that pain. It’s pretty simple really.
I’m not at all surprised that 119 wasn’t indicted. Young Adult fiction is essentially supposed to mirror reality and well….we know how this goes down in real life.
I know I haven’t gone into much detail with the rest of the characters but I’m going to skip that part. For now I want to break down a few things that I think are important to mention when discussing this book.
Aside from the fact that this book provides and incredibly important message, I connected with Starr in more ways than one. I know what it’s like to live in one place and be one person while going to school in a totally different environment and feeling that it’s necessary to create a second version of yourself.
Let me explain now that it has nothing to do with shame of who you are, where you come from, or anything like that. It’s the fact that when you’re around a bunch of rich white kids you know that 1. They’ve likely never spent an extended amount of time around people of color 2. The exception to #1 is typically a maid or housekeeper and 3. They will look at you as the representation and voice of everyone else who looks like you. Sure, this won’t be the case for all of them, but it is for the majority.
On the flip side of that, because Starr goes to a PWI (predominantly white institution) her friends from Garden Heights think she’s stuck up, looks down on them or think she “isn’t black enough.” This is also relatable for me and when all of Starr’s friends are finally in one place, she explains it perfectly,
“I can use some slang, but not too much slang, some attitude, but not too much attitude, so I’m not a “sassy black girl.” I have to watch what I say and how I say it, but I can’t sound ‘white.'”
One of the things that piss me off about this are that being sassy is not a trait that solely black girls have, we’re just the only ones constantly being judged for it. It’s also a stereotype that is so embedded in our society that many people attach it to black women even when it doesn’t fit.
The other thing is the idea of “sounding white.” I was told this often as a child and essentially all it means is that I speak what is considered “proper” English. What pisses me off about it is that by telling me that I sound white you assumed that because I’m Black I’m uneducated and/or use slang all the time. It’s also another example of white people being considered the norm or what people are “supposed” to be.
A lot of people are unaware of the fact that African American Vernacular English aka AAVE or Ebonics is linguistically considered a language. This is where words like “ain’t” originated from. The language itself originated as a result of slavery and the fact that slaves were prevented from learning to read, write or be educated at all for the most part as well as a blend of different African cultures coming together in America at that time. Many people use AAVE and have absolutely no idea of the history behind it. I get that it may not be a well known fact but I kind of feel like this is one more example (there are tons) of how Black people/culture has contributed to society but isn’t credited for it.
This is sometimes a tricky topic to explain. You will often hear someone say that choosing not to date someone due to their race is racist……well it is….but there’s also more behind that. Hopefully at this point you’re familiar with the concept of race as a social construct created by white people and therefore it cannot be used against them (if you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about then message me and we’ll chat). This situation is kind of like that because when old school parents of color don’t want their children dating white people it’s because they don’t want their children dating their oppressor. For many parents, it also raises the question of if their child is internally battling racism. Has the affect of a fucked up society that constantly makes white people the norm caused their child to dislike their own skin and those of people who look like them?
Another reason is because a lot of white people fetishize people of color which, quite frankly, is disgusting. I hate when white people date members of a marginalized group but then continue to perpetuate stereotypes and slurs against them. This is a clear sign of disrespect and again, no parent would want their child in that situation.
This is why Starr starts struggling with the idea of dating Chris. As she said, he may not have pulled the trigger but a man that looks like him killed her best friend, simply because he looked like her.
I also thought about this a lot when Chris was mad at Starr for not telling him that she was the witness in Khalil’s case. First and foremost, how selfish do you have to be to take someone else’s trauma and try to make it about you? Second, he most likely will never be in that situation, so while Starr can tell him all about it, he will never understand. It makes me sick when white people want to date people of color while constantly turning a blind eye to the issues that they face. Just like with Hailey, dating a person of color does not mean you can’t be racist.
For some reason, many people still don’t seem to understand how exactly poverty works. It has nothing to do with laziness or anything close to it and more often is a result of a fucked up system designed to prevent the people at the bottom from moving upward. Quite frankly you need to understand that everything won’t always end up like The Pursuit of Happiness. Even then, his situation got a lot worse before it started to get better. None of it happened overnight
Look up the affects that gentrification and food deserts have had on certain communities. Pay attention to the requirements that have to be met for government assistance and how short a time people actually need it for. Looking up the facts will (hopefully) help get rid of your biases and understand how the system actually works.
Why would anyone ever become a drug dealer? How could Khalil sell drugs if he hated them so much? Valid question. But this quote explains it all.
“Drugs come from somewhere, and they’re destroying our community. You got folks like Brenda, who think they need them to survive. The Brendas can’t get jobs unless they’re clean, and they can’t pay for rehab unless they got jobs. When the Khalils get arrested for selling drugs, they either spend most of their life in prison, another billion dollar industry, or they have a hard time getting a real job and probably start selling drugs again. That’s the hate they’re giving us….a system designed against us.”
I don’t know for sure but I highly doubt that a lot of people are like, “when I grow up I want to be a drug dealer. Yeah!” I just don’t think that happens to often. It’s one of those things that is unfortunate but very easy to fall into and there is always a reason for it. Khalil hated drugs because he saw first hand what they could do to someone. Drugs are the very reason that his relationship with his mother is strained. However, his grandmother is the next best thing that he has to a mother. She’s dying, she needs treatment, and Khalil and his little brother need to eat. Yes, he absolutely could get a job at a fast food place or retail but do you know how much chemo costs? A lot. Too much for someone with some minimum wage job to pay.
The Black Panthers
A lot of people tend to have issues with The Black Panthers and quite frankly I’ve never heard a valid complaint.
For anyone who doesn’t know (or willingly chooses to listen to bullshit) The Black Panthers are not a hate group and you cannot compare them to the KKK. The Black Panthers were a militant self-defense group that was started in response to police brutality in 1966 (Yes, militant. But only in self defense). It’s not The Black Panthers who were going around burning houses and churches and lynching people but apparently most of America has blocked out those memories.
The goal of the Panthers was clear and is stated in the book multiple times throughout:
“We want freedom. We want the power to determine the destiny of our black and oppressed communities….We want an immediate end to police brutality and the murder of black people, other people of color, and oppressed people….”
Were The Black Panthers saints? Absolutely not. Do I agree with all of their choices? No. But no matter how you spin it, they weren’t a hate group like the KKK. It’s also important to note that The Black Panthers were dissolved in 1982 while the KKK is still alive and well. Go figure.
Black Lives Matter
This is probably the most important topic of the book because it’s essentially the inspiration for it. Many people (who aren’t Black) complain about Black Lives Matter because they feel excluded. If you happen to feel that way – especially if you’re white – then I suggest you pay special attention to the rest of this section.
Black Lives Matter was started as a result of cops killing Black people and not being charged for it. It’s not like it was just a one time thing, it happened over and over and still nothing was being done about it. Many of these deaths were caught on tape, many of the victims were unarmed and not a threat, yet somehow their killers walked free. There was no justice and we are still (rightfully) angry.
A lot of people feel the need to respond to this phrase with “All Lives Matter” but the thing is, we never denied that. Never did we say that it was only the lives of Black people that were important. The reason that we have to say this at all is because history has always told us that we don’t. Somehow people also seem to forget that Black lives have to be included in “all” so do you really care about everyone or do you just want to silence us?
Another response to this movement has been “Blue Lives Matter” in support of law enforcement officers. I hate this phrase because again, no one started saying it until we started to say that our lives mattered.
To be clear, I don’t disagree with the statement that the lives of law enforcement officers is important. But it’s like this:
Hailey: What’s wrong with saying his life matters too?
Starr: His life always matters more….that’s the problem!
Sure, law enforcement puts their lives on the line everyday, but they also took an oath to “serve and protect.”
Are they fulfilling that oath?
Starr asked a very good question,
“You think the cops want Khalil to have justice?”
Did they? Based on the way that the investigation was handled, the answer to that question is no.
I can’t be the only one who has wondered why officers are trained to shoot first and ask questions later. Why is it that they always shoot to kill instead of just to eliminate the possibility of a threat? Aren’t they also given tasers? Why isn’t that the first resort?
Here’s the thing, an unarmed Black person is killed by a police officer (a lot of times for no valid reason) and the media will try to dig up whatever they can to frame them as a criminal. Even if they can’t find anything, people will still try to justify their death. Say that they deserved it. That they should have done something differently. Even if they do everything that the officer tells them, it’s caught on video and the victim still dies, then everyone kinda just says oh well. Like it’s not a big deal. They weren’t white or famous so what does it matter right?
The deaths at the hands of police officers has stirred up a lot of emotion. It’s lead to some rioting but also to some very peaceful protests. Unfortunately, the peaceful protests are almost always overshadowed by riots. It says something when peaceful protests in honor of unarmed Black civilians causes police officers to show up in riot gear but Nazis marching with torches in Charlottesville is just… free speech.
It seems as if people have a hard time understanding why the Black community has become so vocal, but it’s really not a hard concept to grasp. We’re tired and we refuse to take anymore shit. It’s about civil rights. About justice. About ending oppression and racism. And as Starr says:
It’s also about Oscar.
It’s even about that little boy in 1955 who nobody recognized at first – Emmett.
The messed-up part? There are so many more
This is why we say Black Lives Matter and if after all this you still “can’t see it” then you are a part of the problem.