The only witness to the murder of her friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer, 16-year-old Starr is suddenly faced with testifying before a grand jury. The pressure is overwhelming, and it begins to erode the wall Starr has placed between her two selves: her home-self as Big Mav’s daughter in a crime-ridden neighborhood and her school-self as one of the only black kids in a private prep school.
The Hate U Give is the best selling debut novel by Angie Thomas that began as a short story while she was attending college. It is a novel about institutional racism and how a broken justice system allows children to be killed by officers of the law with little to no consequence. It is a story about a teenager finding the courage to use her voice, and it is also a story that so badly needed to be told.
Racism is a disease, deeply ingrained in American culture, and it manifests in many ways. Some only recognize hate in its most explicit form as racism, but it isn’t just “white power” or “I don’t like black people” hate speech, racism is a whole institution of social and political systems created generations ago. White people, even those that don’t consciously hate others based on skin color, benefit from the racist system of privilege and will continue to do so until they start standing in solidarity with POC. Racism will continue to plague our society until they educate themselves about the plight of marginalized people and demand change from the flawed system.
Thomas’ novel goes a long way to helping white America see the world from a black youth’s perspective, but it can only do so much on its own. The readers have to be willing to listen to the lesson, a task that many are not able to complete, a fact evident by some of the reviews written on Goodreads. One reviewer calls Starr’s family and her neighbors “those people” and complains that all of the problems faced by them would be simply cured with better parenting. Another reviewer accuses Starr of “blatant racism” because the novel’s protagonist jokes about white people kissing their dogs. Goodreads isn’t the only place people are missing the lesson, however, kids in Katy, Texas won’t even get to attempt to learn because their school system banned the book and pulled it from every library in the district.
Obviously, it hit a chord that makes people uncomfortable, but people need to feel uncomfortable. Then they need to get angry about the injustices people like Starr face every day and actually do something about it.