Skip to content

OPINION: Pay attention to pop culture

The Henry Hype

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. 

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle