The Hate U Give: “Black Lives Matter” in Film

Photo Courtesy of Collider.com

By Katie Van Lew 

The Hate U Give is a 2017 novel by Angie Thomas that addresses the prevalence of police brutality in the black community.  After Oscar Grant’s death in 2010, Thomas was fueled by the injustice committed against the black community and decided to write a novel that depicted the reality of racism in the twenty-first century. In 2018, director George Tillman Jr. brought Thomas’s vision to life by adapting the critically acclaimed novel into a movie. The film adaptation of The Hate U Give has received many accolades, securing 23 wins from awards such as the Hamptons International Film Festival and the Hollywood Film Award.

The story follows Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old girl that is immersed in two completely different worlds. Starr experiences the world of the black community in her neighborhood, Garden Heights, which is vastly different from the affluent and white environment at her school, Williamson Prep. Starr keeps these two worlds very separate, as she fears that her friends at Williamson will perceive her differently if she is her authentic self. 

At a party with her Garden Heights friends, Starr runs into her childhood best friend, Khalil. The pair reconnect, and Khalil offers to drive her home from the party. While the pair reminisce on blissful moments spent together, Khalil admits to Starr that he is confident that one day they will be together. As Khalil goes to make a turn, he is signaled to pull over by the police. Starr’s father, Maverick, instills in her and her siblings at a very young age that if they are ever stopped by the police, they are to make their hands visible. Immediately, Starr places her hands on the dashboard and instructs Khalil to do the same. The officer quickly becomes annoyed by Khalil’s questioning and instructs Khalil to get out of the car. Khalil, with his hands on the side of the car, the officer inspects him and orders him to remain in the same spot. As the officer walks off, Khalil reaches into the window of the car to make sure that Starr is okay. Starr orders Khalil to get back to his spot alongside the car because she knows that any sudden movements can be deadly for a young black man who is being pulled over. Pulling away from the window, Khalil withdraws a hairbrush from his seat and is fatally shot by the panicked officer. As the Garden Heights community grieves, Starr makes the decision to testify for Khalil, in order to bring justice to his name.  

The Hate U Give is a movie that resonates with this country more now than ever. For decades, the black community has been unjustly abused and reprimanded by the police. Amandla Stenberg, who plays Starr Carter, delivered an emotional performance that encapsulates her strength to persevere despite the system set up against her. When tragedy flips her world upside down, Starr discovers that her biggest weapon is her voice, something that not even the police could take from her. Throughout the film, Starr realizes that her compliance to maintain an identity that conforms to the standards of her elitist friends at Williamson is a disservice to her culture and to her identity. Above everything, Starr realizes that she wants people to really see and hear her for who she is. It is through the racial injustice perpetuated in her community that Starr is able to shine in her own identity, becoming a voice of hope and justice for the black community. 

This movie elicits a wave of empathy and wavering sadness. Watching the movie, two years later, in the midst of a racism pandemic, prompts the question of why, as a nation, have we failed to make a significant change in the lives of the black community?  

Many people have taken to social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube to share petitions, donations, and their words of allegiance, love, and support for the black community. Across the United States, every state, including major cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., has hosted peaceful protests to defy the systemic racism that prevents black lives from living with the same liberty and opportunity as their white counterparts. In The Hate U Give, Starr expresses how the movement Black Lives Matter is not simply a “trend” for her white friends to use and to profit from, rather, it is a movement that persists even when the hashtags and pictures stop circulating on the internet. It is a movement that shows that the phrase “all lives matter” does not reign true until black lives matter.

The Hate U Give weaponizes the human voice and exhibits the power from within. Heartbreaking yet hopeful, this film displays the strength of a sixteen-year-old girl who vows to avenge the death of her friend by advocating for the black community and spreading awareness of his unjust death. Highlighting the reality of police brutality in the United States, viewers merely glimpse into the severity of prejudice the black community faces every day. Movies like The Hate U Give amplify and empower black voices, inspiring future generations to stand up and make some noise against the oppression of black lives. 

Currently, this film is available for free on streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu.

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