The Hate U Give: Angie Thomas
“We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of Black people.” This was just one of the 10 set of ideals that the Black Panther Party (a black right activist group in the U.S) came up with in the early 1960’s to help try and eliminate discrimination against the black community in America. Yet as shown in the novel The Hate U Give, this plea for humanity and equality between the black community and the police force was not listened to. Instead, it seems that police brutality in the US has just increased. The author, Angie Thomas gives an insight into the meaning of Black Lives Matter and highlights the unnecessary struggle that many African Americans go through daily just to stay alive or out of jail. Through the main character, Starr, we see two worlds, a white one and a black one. The different views these two worlds have on police, black people, white people, and America as a country, are powerful in an out out of the novel. Characters portrayed in the novel are drastically different and the contrast between the characters such as Hailey, Starrs ‘white’ friend and Kenya, Starr’s ‘ghetto’ friend just enforces how different the two worlds really are. I would thoroughly recommend this novel to a year 12 book club as it focuses on true events such as the death of Oscar Grant a young black man who was unarmed when he was fatally shot in the back by an Oakland police officer. The media can often show us a distorted image of what it is like for minorities in America, Thomas however, uncovers what it is really like to be African American in 2018.
If you search up ‘black teenager shot by police in America ‘ on Google, there are just under 2.5 million results. Nearly 1 in every 30 results victimises the officer who shot them rather than the actual victim themselves. Thomas examines the stereotypes behind what made police shoot unarmed black men such as Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, Stephen Clark and Michael Brown. She illustrates these stereotypes through her own character Khalil Harris. Khalil, in the novel, was shot three times by a white officer for reaching for his hairbrush, was unarmed, and only sixteen “He was dead before one-fifteen even pulled us over”. This quote really emphasises the message that the movement, Black Lives Matter tries to convey. The officer, one-fifteen didn’t see a sixteen-year-old in the car, but rather a generalised version of a black teenager. He shot because he felt threatened by the stereotypes of black people rather than feeling threatened because of Khalil’s actions towards him “They were from, Garden Heights a neighborhood notorious for gangs and drug dealers, which is why he Officer one-fifteen felt he needed to check on them”. I felt angered and saddened at society when reading this novel because I recognised these stereotypes of colored people that Angie Thomas illustrated. Not from the novel itself, but from songs, social media, films and television displayed all over the internet. If we as human kind want to create this ideal world of equality and equity, then we need to stop portraying colored people as thugs and gangsta’s because if you tell someone that they are something often enough, they start to believe you. The message that this novel tries to communicate to the world, which is that we need to not only stop acting on our prejudice thoughts of every race but to also stop stereotyping culture and races into pop culture.This I think is an important message that teenagers in a year 12 book club would benefit from hearing. New Zealand is quite a peaceful country, but I still think that we as a nation need to learn more about the difficulties minorities face before we act or talk bad about them. Just because a person has more melanin in their skin doesn’t make them dumb, dangerous or a threat like the stereotypes suggest they are.
In 2017 alone, Police killed 1,147 people in the U.S. Black people were 25% of those killed despite being only 13% of the U.S population. A police officer’s job is to protect the community from harm, yet it seems police in America sometimes do more harm than they do to good, especially towards minorities such as the black community. Police brutality has become a real issue against African Americans that parents are now having to socialise and bring up their black children differently to what they would if they were white. “When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual birds and bees…The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me.”. Starr’s parents were so concerned about the fact that she could be killed by a cop for a simple thing, such as a broken taillight, that they had to have a separate talk to her when she was only 12, about what do if she were to be pulled over by a police officer. ” Keep your hands visible. No sudden movements. Only speak when spoken to.” These three sentences really opened my eyes to see just how scary and dangerous it can be to be a black person in America, and how easy it seems for a cop to become threatened by them and shoot. These were also the words that Starr remembered vividly from her childhood and still can put them into context now that she is a teenager. Even when Starr was in a ‘safe space’ and wasn’t in danger of being shot by a cop she still changed her manner of speaking and the way she interacted with the cops to make her seem more ‘white’ “My voice is changing already. It always happens around “other” people and police. I cannot let people know I’m ghetto.” I felt saddened by the life that some if not many African American teens like Starr live who feel that they need to hide their identity and culture, to protect themselves. If this issue has become so bad that instead of many police forces in America changing their views and actions towards minorities, that the parents of these minorities have instead resorted to making their children become more wary and careful around the police, what’s to say that we’ll ever be able to solve it? If we as teenagers, as the future of humanity start to realise just how discriminated against many minorities not just African American but also Polynesian and Asian, I reckon that the future society and the way everyone interacts with others of different races, colour, religion and sex will be one of equality. This is why I would definitely recommend this novel to a year 12 book club because it definitely opens your eyes to how wronged people of colour are done by in America.
The media commonly portrays black people as thugs, gang bangers or drug dealers. As a teenager in New Zealand, I only really see the news that America media wants me to see. The small amount of stories I do see are often from a ‘white’ perspective which can completely ignore or distort the black one.The US police force has high control of what the media releases, much like in the novel where the shooting of Khalil was shown as his fault. Cops tend to fabricate stories of what really happened to make the senseless killing seem more justifiable. They make sure only the information they want out is ‘leaked’ to the media. In the novel Khalil is stereotyped by the media as “a suspected drug dealer”, this quote made me feel really annoyed when I read it because not only is this something that the media and police do just in this novel but also in real life. It also shouldn’t matter that Khalil ‘may’ have sold drugs. It shouldn’t have given Officer one-fifteen the right to shoot and kill him. The media never showed that Khalil was from a disadvantaged home and community and was selling drugs as mean of survival. However his shooter, Officer one-fifteen was victimised on live T.V by his father “Brian’s a good boy. He only wanted to get home to his family, and people are making him out to be a monster.”. I can’t understand how so many people could feel sad for Officer one-fifteen (Brian) because ‘his life was ruined’ and because people were “making him out to be a monster”. They feared and were are angry at Khalil and his family even though Khalil was no longer alive. Khalil’s family had to cope with the murder of their child at the hands of a person who was meant to protect him and yet people seemed to be sympathising the man who did it. I want more teenagers to read this novel and understand the message behind it, so they know not to believe everything they see or hear from American media. What we hear in NZ is a very small part of what actually goes on in the US and we often only get the mainstream version which is usually whitewashed, which is another reason why I would recommend, The Hate U Give to year 12 book club.
Reading this novel helped me to see America, through a person of colours’ eyes and the terror and fear, that they feel when being stopped by a white cop or a police officer of any race in general. Through Angie Thomas, I saw how cops seem to only fear their own ideas and the stereotypes that the media portrays of black people, not actual black people. The struggles that Starr, her family and her community go through because of their skin colour, showed me just how lucky I am to be a teenager growing up in New Zealand. I am grateful that I have never seen a person be killed right in front of me or ever seen a person be arrested just because of their race. Before this novel, I had only ever really seen these incidents through the media’s eyes. I victimised the police officers because I only saw the actual victims as ex-cons or gang members, or whatever the media labeled them to be. I saw them as dangerous and thugs because that was what the media had shown me. While I didn’t think that the cops were necessarily in the the right to shoot, I did see the killing as more justifiable. This was because I thought somehow the police officer must have felt threatened by their actions rather than threatened by the stereotype of their race that they had either made up themselves or had seen on the media. I really enjoyed this novel, not only because of the way it conveyed a serious and controversial topic but also because of the way Angie Thomas aimed it at teenagers and wrote it in a way that was easy to read and understand. It is a great novel and I would definitely recommend to a year 12 book club.