By Stephanie Younger •
A movie entitled, The Hate U Give–based on the acclaimed YA novel by Angie Thomas, debuts with a then 9-year-old Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), her younger brother Sekani (TJ Wright), who was one year old, and her older half-brother Seven (Lamar Johnson), who was ten, being given “the talk” by her formerly-incarcerated father Maverick Carter (Russell Hornsby). Many Black parents across America help their children survive encounters with the police by giving them the talk. In a similar vein, Maverick reminded not only his children, but us all that, “Being Black is an honor because you come from greatness.”
Now at 16-years-old, “Starr Version One” resides in a Garden Heights, an impoverished and predominantly Black neighborhood. After losing one of her closest childhood friends to gun violence, “Starr Version Two” was enrolled in Williamson Prep. She makes an effort to avoid being viewed as “ghetto” by code-switching and being cautious her mannerisms at this predominantly white private school. Meanwhile, her white counterparts are praised for using ebonics and slang. “Slang makes them cool. Slang makes me hood.”
Early in the movie, Starr goes to a party in Garden Heights, where she runs into her childhood friend, her first crush and her first kiss–Khalil Harris (Algee Smith). When shots are fired at the party, Khalil drives Starr home, until the kids are pulled over by a white police officer on the way, with a badge number that reads One-Fifteen. One-Fifteen is the officer who shoots Khalil, mistaking his hairbrush for a gun. These two versions of a traumatized and devastated Starr disintegrate as the murder of her childhood friend gains national attention. 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 means putting Starr and her family at risk.
Meanwhile at school, tension between Starr and her friend, Hailey (Sabrina Carpenter) arises due to Hailey’s racist comments. The more explicit Hailey’s racism becomes, the less tolerant Starr becomes of microaggressions, such as “not seeing color.” Starr ultimately decides to move on with her life without Hailey, due to her racism–from fried chicken jokes to implications that Khalil somehow deserved to be murdered. A relatable aspect of this movie was when Hailey unfollowed Starr’s Tumblr blog. Several of my white counterparts from my childhood I once considered friends unfollowed me on my social media platforms because of the things I say on social media and the work I do in my community.
As a Black girl who is Starr’s age, The Hate U Give was extremely moving to me. This movie addresses issues that are relevant to this generation, such as code switching, the lack of accountability for police brutality and the media’s negative portrayal of Black victims of this issue. It also addresses the trauma and devastation Black people—specifically what Black women and girls have to cope with in the wake of police brutality. The Hate U Give teaches Black youth, especially Black girls that it’s worth fighting for your community—even if there is a price to pay.
Originally published on the Richmond Peace Education Center, this article was written by Stephanie Younger, a 16-year-old student activist, organizer and writer who advocates for womanism, diversity in S.T.E.A.M, the abolition of youth prisons and gun violence prevention.