I’m not quite over The Hate U Give. I really need to see it again, just to watch the incredible performances. Watching the film brought up some personal thoughts and feelings that have always been in the back of my mind, but the strength of Starr’s story has given me a thought to speak.
I was fourteen years old when my father got pulled over by a police officer. He was driving myself and two friends home after a party. We were driving safely, with the music up and singing along. Then the blue and red flashing lights came from behind. My dad pulled over. We were doing nothing wrong. Yet the fear was still there. Heart in my throat, clinging to my friends hands as my dad was asked to get out of the car. He had a discussion with the officer. The officer scanned his license. After about five minutes, the officer let him get back in the car.
One of my friends got it – she knew why I was scared, why I was gripping her hand hard enough to turn my knuckles white. The other friend didn’t understand, and didn’t see what the big deal was. We waited until they left until my dad drove on. My friends were dropped home, and when I got home my dad sat me down. He talked about how some police officers consider him a thief because they looked at his fancy car and at the colour of his skin and couldn’t dream that a black man would own an Audi unless he stole it. I was fourteen. That the same had been considered of my uncles. That is an everlasting memory on my mind – the fear, the distrust, the anger. After seeing The Hate U Give, that memory came flooding back.
The Hate U Give is a powerful film. It doesn’t shy away from the stereotypes black people are constantly painted with. It doesn’t hide what it thinks about the disgraceful crimes of police officers against unarmed black men – a crime statistic which is constantly on the rise. While reading the book – and watching the film – I came to realise the scary thought that for many families this is non-fiction. There are young black boys being gunned down for looking threatening to cops, and the cop gets off with paid leave and a smack on the wrists. The Hate U Give is a reality for some that we cannot ignore. Angie Thomas hasn’t shied away from the situation that is going on in America, and has chosen to write a strong novel that holds up the truth to societies face.
While watching, I realised how many of the white teenagers in the cinema were uninterested, but when the mum of a group of three answered her phone mid film it’s no surprise. When the parents are disinterested, the children will learn this and copy the pattern. If you’re reading this blog post and are about to go and watch The Hate U Give, pay attention to it. Listen to the messages it is putting across. Learn something from it. Understand it. Because nothing will change until people understand that these are real life situations being reflected in the form of a film.
In the current climate we live in, I am considerably more wary than I was when I was a teenager. And I notice far more now. Old white men have crossed the street when I’ve walked along the pavement with my hands in the pockets of my hoodie. Neighbours have confused my dad with the other black man living on our road. People have asked me whether I know the answer to a question based on my skin colour. Many times I wonder to myself: ‘am I the token brown friend some people have?’ If you’re reading this and you cannot count a single person in your group of friends that is brown other than me, rectify your situation.
If you take one thing away from this blog post, take away the fact that The Hate U Give is a scary reflection of some lives, and that power comes from speaking your truth and refusing to be silent on the wrongdoings of the world.
Books to read after The Hate U Give:
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Anger Is A Gift by Mark Oshiro
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence
Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles
The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch