Starr lives in two worlds, she tries to keep separated. One is the poor neighbourhood Garden Heights, where she was born and raised. The second one is her posh high school in a suburb about a 45-minute drive away. But the balance between those worlds is shattered, when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of one of her oldest and best friends. Khalil was unarmed and killed by a police officer. What Starr says now, could destroy her community, or could get her killed.
In The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas takes up an incredibly important political topic — police violence against black people / Black Lives Matter. Using Starr’s story, which is unfortunately very realistic, she managed to pick me up completely and bring me closer to this topic and everything that’s behind it. The Hate U Give is not an easy book, but an incredibly important one, where I had to pause again and again to let sink in what just happened.
We’re with Starr, who’s going home after a party with Khalil, whom she hasn’t seen for far too long and with whom it’s just like old times. Although he doesn’t speed, the two are stopped. Khalil is forced to get out, he is unarmed. Nevertheless, Starr has to watch as he is shot by the police officer with several shots in the back. She is the only witness with a big burden on her — when she speaks up, it will upset her neighbourhood and could get her killed. A neighbourhood where Starr learned at the age of 12 what to do if a cop stops her.
When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual about the birds and bees […] The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me. ‘Starr-Starr, you do whatever they tell you to do,’ he said. ‘Keep your hands visible. Don’t make any sudden moves. Only speak when they speak to you.’
Angie Thomas also describes the angry protests from the neighbourhood, in the social media, the family, shows how families and friendships can break up and gives us an insight into the social and psychological consequences for witnesses and relatives. The feeling of not being able to do anything, no matter how loud you may be, this powerlessness, which has to go along with it, is transported by her in every sentence.
But there is also hope and a look into the future, she shows that using your voice is worth it. Angie Thomas also vividly describes the way in which such cases are usually handled in court, how witness interviews are conducted, and how the media usually portrays cases like Khalils. How quickly they stamp Khalil, how like in so many real cases Khalil is blamed for having been shot, instead of pointing to the one who is really to blame. As always, reasons and justifications why the cop shot Khalil are searched for, as if that would change something or make it less bad. Cases that you see and hear too often, far too often in real life.
You haven’t asked my child about that cop yet,’ Momma says, ‘You keep asking her about Khalil, like he’s the reason he’s dead. Like she said, he didn’t pull the trigger on himself.
Highlight and important read
The Hate U Give is Angie Thomas debut and also a motion picture. I’m ashamed that I’ve waited so long for this intensive, incredibly important book that addresses such an important, still far too often occurring topic. It may not always be perfect, but it is important and a book that everyone should read.