As a curious person, I often turn to books, TV shows, documentaries, movies, and other forms of pop culture to learn.
I become almost obsessed with a topic until I’ve uncovered as much as I possibly can about it and then look for people to discuss my theories with and what I’ve found.
I don’t form my opinions until I’ve thoroughly researched a topic and will usually decline from commenting on something until I’ve reached that point.
Pop culture is often a reflection of what’s happening in the world and can teach us a lot if we pay attention. This can be said about Angie Thomas’ book, The Hate U Give. The 2017 Young Adult (YA) novel is narrated by 16-year-old Starr Carter, who becomes the witness in a national news story after she witnesses a white police officer shoot and kill her childhood friend, Khalil.
As the book goes on, Starr struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and with the reality that the police officer won’t be charged for murdering her friend.
The novel was originally a short story Thomas wrote in college in response to the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant. Unlike in The Hate U Give, the officer who shot Grant was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter but not guilty of the murder charge and voluntary manslaughter.
The thing that surprised me when I was reading the book was just how relevant it still is today, even three years after it was published. As Starr’s story unfolded, I was reminded immensely of the murder of George Floyd and the reactions I saw and heard.
Starr was shocked when the media and people justified Khalil’s death because he was a drug dealer. True or not, a lot of people said Floyd was a criminal and deserved what he got. The police officer in the book claimed he thought Khalil was reaching for a gun but it was actually a hairbrush. Floyd died after officers arrested him for using a fraudulent $20 bill.
The subject of The Hate U Give isn’t an anomaly and there’s a reminder of that at the end of the book. Starr lists off a number of African-Americans who have been gunned down and their perpetrators rarely face punishment.
I was reminded of just how ingrained racism is to our everyday life when Starr talked about a discussion her parents had with her about how she should react if she’s ever stopped by a police officer. This is a real conversation people have with their children, and that’s terrifying.
Sure, Starr Carter is a fictional character but her story isn’t. Thomas did an amazing job of showing the reality of an African-American who comes from a poor neighbourhood in the United States and the struggles they face.
I honestly think The Hate U Give should be added to the high school curriculum and would recommend everyone read the book or watch the movie. You could really learn something from it.