‘The Hate U Give’ Teaches Young Black Girls to Find Their Voice

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The Hate U Give–based on the acclaimed YA novel by Angie Thomas, opens with 16-year-old Starr Carter’s (Amandla Stenberg) recollection of being given “The talk” by her formerly-incarcerated father Maverick (Russell Hornsby). Many Black parents across America help their children survive encounters with the police in this very same way. At the same time, Maverick to instilled a sense of Black pride in then nine-year-old Starr, her younger brother Sekani (TJ Wright), who was one and her older half-brother Seven (Lamar Johnson), who was ten.

Starr Version One resides in a Garden Heights, a predominantly Black, impoverished, and crime-ridden low-income neighborhood. After losing her friend to gun violence, Starr Version Two now attends Williamson Prep, a predominantly White private school across town and works hard to keep these two versions of herself separate by code-switching and being cautious her mannerisms. While her White counterparts have no problem using ebonics and slang, Starr has to minimize who she is to avoid being viewed as “ghetto”.  “Slang makes them cool; it makes me hood.”

On the weekend Starr Version One goes to a party in Garden Heights where she runs into Khalil Harris (Algee Smith), her childhood friend, her first crush and her first kiss. They ultimately grew apart after Starr was enrolled in Williamson. When a fight breaks out and shots are fired, Khalil offers to drive her home. On the way home, Khalil is pulled over by One-Fifteen, a white police officer who mistakes his hairbrush for a gun.

These two versions of Starr disintegrate as the as the death of Khalil Harris gains national attention. Starr is traumatized and conflicted. She is asked by April Ofrah, (Issa Rae), an attorney and an activist, to testify when the grand jury is ordered to consider charges against one-fifteen. Speaking up for Khalil and exposing a local gang called the King Lords puts Starr and her family at risk.

Meanwhile at school, tension between Starr and her friend, Hailey (Sabrina Carpenter) arises due to Hailey’s racial insensitivity. The more explicit Hailey’s racism becomes, the less tolerant Starr becomes of microaggressions such as “not seeing color”. Starr ultimately decides to cut Hailey out of her life, due to her racism–from fried chicken jokes to depicting Khalil as a criminal. A relatable aspect of this movie was when Hailey unfollowed Starr’s Tumblr account. Several my white childhood friends unfollowed me on Instagram because of the work I do in my community.

As a Black girl who is Starr’s age, this movie was extremely moving, and influential for me. The Hate U Give addresses issues that are relevant today, such as code switching, the lack of accountability for police brutality, the media’s depiction of Black victims of police violence. It also addresses the trauma and devastation Black people—specifically Black women have to cope with in the wake of police violence. The Hate U Give teaches Black youth, specifically Black girls that it’s worth speaking up for what’s right—even if there is a price to pay.  

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