By Alexa Dumas
“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
Starr Carter was dividing her time between two places and two personalities: the Black side of Garden Heights where she lived, and the white side of Williamson where she attended school.
Starr created two versions of herself to mask whichever place she was, mostly for her safety.
One night after a high school party, Starr and her childhood friend Khalil were driving home, reconnecting from their time apart. Suddenly, lights started to flash and Khalil was asked to pull over.
After an encounter with Officer One-Fifteen, a white police officer, Khalil was fatally shot.
Angie Thomas’ 2017 young adult novel, “The Hate U Give,” shows how the death of an unarmed Black teenager can spark discourse within a community.
While Garden Heights tries to protest the murder of Khalil, Williamson seems to defend Officer One-Fifteen, as Khalil is portrayed as a drug-dealing member of a gang.
To Starr, she doesn’t seem to understand why there is such a debate: her friend’s life mattered.
Witnessing Khalil’s death unleashes something within Starr, as she must come to terms with the two sides of herself.
Should she stay quiet about being a witness to Khalil’s murder, or should she speak out and stand up for her friend who died due to police brutality?
Starr is timid throughout most of the novel, as she feels like her voice will make her even more ostracized at school.
Her peers at Williamson stage a walk-out as a way to protest Khalil’s death, but Starr sees it as shallow: their only goal is to skip class.
Starr learns this lesson as she is the main witness in Officer One-Fifteen’s trial and is featured anonymously on a television program about the case. Although this gives Starr anxiety, she knows it is the right thing to do in order to give Khalil the justice he deserves. As the novel progresses, Starr gains her voice and learns how to speak up for Khalil and for her community.
Influenced by the death of Oscar Grant in 2009, Thomas wrote “The Hate U Give” as a response to the murders of unarmed Black individuals at the hands of police within the United States. Thomas’ writing references the victims of police brutality at the conclusion of the novel, as it pays homage to the lives lost within the Black community.
Thomas’ novel has been frequently banned and challenged across the United States due to themes of racism, being anti-police, depicting police brutality and violence, while including expletives. “The Hate U Give” has been featured on the American Library Association’s top ten banned books in the years 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021. By banning the novel, it proves that hate and prejudice are still alive in the United States, and issues around police brutality are still prevalent.
“The Hate U Give” allows readers of all races to see into the struggles that many African Americans have with police systematically, but it also shows the struggles of Black adolescent teens, as police brutality affects growing up. They learn about puberty, while also learning how to act around the police, which is something that Starr’s friends at Williamson don’t have to face.
Thomas’ novel is a true young adult classic, and should be used within classrooms around the nation. Readers of “The Hate U Give” learn so much from the novel about experiences that may not be like their own. This diverse material and novel should be utilized, not censored in the United States.