#Alllivesmatter writes the privileged white boy triggered by the BLM that floods his timeline. He shakes his head, appalled by the fact that people believe that one race’s life is of higher importance than another. He shakes his head, ignorant of people like, Eric Garner. People like Trayvon Martin. People like Jordan Edwards. Unknowingly, his hashtag – what he believes to be all inclusive – is silencing thousands of voices, and continuing the cycle of hate. The Hate U Give, deeply inspired by Tupac’s”Thug Life,” is a novel that I would purchase in a heartbeat for this man to read. In fact from now on, when I see the #Alllivesmatter hashtag resurface, I will send the user a link to purchase this book. We should run a campaign that for each time this hashtag appears, we donate a copy of this book to a library or something. The Hate U Give is a novel that expresses the importance of the BLM movement and why it is far from finished.
Upon leaving a party one night, Starr and her childhood friend, Khalil, are pulled over by Officer 115. In the encounter, the officer makes Khalil step out of the car. While this ensues, Starr recites the mantra instilled upon her that addresses what to do when pulled over. When many of us hear that our parents want to have “the talk” we assume that it will be about the birds and bees, not the badges and brutality. Yet for many black teenagers, there comes a point where this talk occurs – a talk that warns them of the dangers in life that they will face for merely existing. For simply being black:
“do whatever they tell you to do . . . Keep your hands visible. Don’t make any sudden moves. Only speak when they speak to you” (20).
“Get a good look at the cop’s face. If you can remember his badge number, that’s even better” (22).
However, Khalil does the opposite of the advice that Starr received as he walks back to the car to check on her well being. In that moment, officer 115 shoots Khalil multiple times and kills him. Thomas is not shy in reminding readers of the grim reality that inspired her book as she alludes to Eric Garner, “They finally put a sheet over Khalil. He can’t breathe under it. I can’t breathe” (26). What is interesting here is that Starr finds herself unable to breathe as well. Starr symbolizes the numerous second-hand victims of police brutality. Although they have not lost their lives, the fear that their friend, their lover, their son or daughter – that they, themselves – could be next is suffocating.
Thomas’ novel stands apart from others because this incident occurs within the first thirty pages of the book whereas the rest of the novel focuses on the aftermath rather than the event itself, allowing Thomas to showcase that BLM is not only important for the victims but those part of the community. Starr initially chooses to remain silent in fear of the repercussions that speaking might have. However, she later discovers that her voice is her greatest weapon to combat injustice. This realization occurs after she watches a broadcast of an interview of Officer 115. In the interview, Khalil is painted to be a thug, and a drug dealer, while the officer is portrayed as a victim. Someone who was simply doing a job. Someone who had no choice. While Khalil is someone who deserves to be dead – perfectly capturing the media’s trend of humanizing white killers while vilifying black victims.
Despite speaking out, Officer 115 is acquitted – once again capturing the gruesome reality surrounding BLM. Initially discouraged, Starr discovers that her voice has to continue to be heard, not just for herself, but for characters in the novel and real victims.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed the tactics Thomas used to create The Hate U Give, I did find some parts problematic. At points it seemed as if the novel was trying too hard to appear urban and modern. You know like that one father who wants to be hip so he will insert phrases like “my brotha!” and “word” sporadically in conversations? The beginning of the book is marked by Nae Nae and Drake which felt a bit cliché in my opinion. With those clichés aside, The Hate U Give continued to raise a sense of awareness on how hate from past generations floods into upcoming generations. From witnessing the murder of her childhood friends, combating subtle and explicit racism in school, to struggling with being in an interracial relationship, and learning how to implement her voice as a weapon, Starr embodies the countless individuals who make up the fabric of a brighter constellation.
“Once upon a time there was a hazel-eyed boy with dimples. I called him Khalil. The world called him a thug.
He lived but not nearly long enough, and for the rest of my life. I’ll remember how he died.
Fairy tale? No. But I’m not giving up on a better ending.
It would be easy to quit if it was just about me, Khalil, that night, and that cop. It’s about way more than that though. It’s about Seven. Sekani. Kenya. DeVante.
It’s also about Oscar.
It’s even about that little boy in 1955 who nobody recognized at first – Emmett” (442-43).