"The Hate U Give" Inspires Activism
“Keep your hands visible”
“No sudden moves.”
“Only speak when spoken to.”
Sixteen- year-old Starr Carter, the protagonist of Angie Thomas’ debut novel The Hate U Give, wished her best friend, Khalil, had followed these rules the traumatic night he was killed by a white cop. While Starr mourns the loss of her best friend, she deals with other problems such as gang violence in her community, racial tensions at her dominantly white private school, and finding her voice in a movement that has been speaking out for years-- black lives matter.
Angie Thomas could not have chosen a better time to publish this book. We are living in an era where police brutality against people of color and racial profiling has skyrocketed in less than five years. Throughout the novel, Thomas pays tribute to Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and even Emmett Till-- all of whom were painted by the media as either thugs, drug dealers, and, in Till’s case, a rapist. Tupac Shakur’s philosophy of THUG LIFE- which stands for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody” graces the cover as a protest against systematic inequality and hostility towards minorities.
“I’ve seen it happen over and over again: a black person gets killed just for being black, and all hell breaks loose. I’ve Tweeted RIP hashtags, reblogged pictures on Tumblr, and signed every petition out there. I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down. Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak.”- Starr Carter.
This happens often with the loved ones of the victims of police brutality and racial profiling. The victims’ families ask for a peaceful protest, yet the majority get out of hand and violence takes over. The media takes advantage and displays the violence, further adding a negative image to the victim’s face. Tensions escalate between white communities and people of color. Starr experiences all this as she struggles to find her voice and speak out on behalf of Khalil. As the only witness to his murder, Starr knows she is the key to clearing Khalil’s name.
Starr’s motivation to become an activist is further escalated as she discovers one of her “close friends” is a racist. Her boyfriend, Chris, who is white, also makes her question about where she stands between her two worlds; her life in Garden Heights and the private school world where she recieves her education. Starr feels she doesn’t do enough to stand up for the person Khalil was. Even when she consents to stand on trial as a witness against the white cop, her world crumbles to pieces. “Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right,” Starr’s momma tells her.
The Hate U Give inspires peaceful and brave activism through a fictional character that embraces a reality we all live in. What do we do when a loved one is killed for the wrong reasons? How do we fight a system that is against the oppressed? Starr receives insults from her classmates, her relationship with her boyfriend becomes a struggle, and her community transforms into a political warzone. Through all this, Starr knows even with the fear she experiences, she has to do right by Khalil. “What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?” she says. It’s not easy speaking up in a world where the system is against you, but Angie Thomas’ novel provides the hope we needs to use our freedom of speech.