I remember being on Facebook and seeing the story in the news sidebar. The death of Anton Sterling was still on my mind. I clicked on the video, and when it dawned on me that I was watching a man die, my insides collapsed and I broke down.
I didn’t have my head in the sand, at this point is was evident that something rotten was allowed to grow within our police system. I was devastated because Philando did everything that was asked of him and still died. Bearing witness was his girlfriend’s four year old daughter in the back seat.
“The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody”
Thug Life – Tupac
Everything I felt in that moment came back to me as Starr Carter watched her childhood friend, Khalil Harris, die in front of her. A broken taillight leads to three shots in the back, and Starr holding her dear friend as he bled out on the pavement.
This tragedy unfolds early on in the novel, and from then on the reader is with Starr as she tries to process what happened to Khalil, along with witnessing how the shooting impacts her neighborhood, Garden Heights.
It would have been easy to make Starr a talking piece that just spouts out ideas and catch phrases, but Thomas developed a living, breathing teenage girl. The subject matter is already emotional, but the character of Starr makes everything accessible to those who can’t beginning to understand what life is like for places like Garden Heights across America.
Before the shooting, Starr is already dealing with living a double life. At Williamson Prep, a mostly white private school Starr attends, she feels like she can’t be the same girl from Garden Heights. Starr can’t seem to bring those two worlds together, and so she just lives for years being two people. As the story unfolds, Starr finds it harder to keep the two apart.
Along with facing past tragedies and figuring her place in the community, Starr already had enough on her plate.
And then she witnesses the murder of her friend.
This, to me, is a must read book. There’s going to be many of you that will be uncomfortable with the subject matter, but you need to hear this perspective. I applaud those who push past their comfort zone.
Sadly though, as I write this I can hear the backlash coming. No, this book is neither anti-white nor anti-police. In Starr’s circle of friends and family we see a variety of viewpoints, as she has loved ones who fit both descriptions. Everyone knows that there are good cops, and that all lives matter.
Black Lives Matter is just making the bold statement that their lives matter too.
The Hate U Give doesn’t give you nice clean answers, but relays why this movement is important and the damage being done to communities when officers are careless.
These men and women mattered. We need to stop making excuses for negligence just because the dead guy was probably this or that.
“But damn, what about his life? He was once a walking talking human being. He had family. He had friends. He had dreams. None of it fucking mattered. He was just a thug who deserved to die.” Pg.388