Lessons from Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give
Have you ever read a novel that was so captivating you literally felt as if you were part of the story? You felt every emotion the characters experienced as you sat on the edge of your chair in anticipation of what was to come.
That’s how I felt in the 11 hours it took me to read Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give. This was the first nonfiction book I can recall reading where I had a F.U.B.U. moment. The characters, setting, issues, and vernacular certainly feel as if this book was written “for us, by us”.
Don’t get me wrong, friend. I’m not saying this book won’t be enlightening, captivating, and eye-opening for readers who aren’t people of color. Angie Thomas did an extraordinary job of writing an authentic and raw depiction of what many Blacks experience or feel about the injustices that persist in our country. I encourage everyone to read this book--regardless of ethnic background. In doing so, you will have a glimpse into what life is like for many Black/Brown people in the United States.
There were a few themes that stood out to me in this novel: identity issues, people pleasing, and injustice.
Like the main character, Starr, many Blacks feel the need to put on a mask everyday they go to work or to school. They live a double life because American culture teaches us to assimilate. Therefore we shun any cultural tradition or expression that contradicts what many in the majority consider “normal”. Instead of proudly embracing our cultural heritage, we choose to blend in like chameleons. I am not insinuating we should not be professional, but I do feel some of our identity issues center around a skewed perspective of what is socially acceptable.
In The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas also points out our desire to become people pleasers. Several times, we see Starr struggling to be herself because she’s afraid of perpetuating the standard stereotypes against the Black community. Will her friends still like her if she shows her “true colors”? Or will she become “the loud, angry Black girl” who doesn’t speak properly? I know about this fear all too well. It’s difficult to be yourself when the chance of being misunderstood, judged, and treated unfairly is all too real. As a result, many people of color choose to cater to the ideal or preferred personality and lifestyle in exchange for acceptance.
What we cannot accept, however, is injustice. In The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas writes about the injustice shown towards an unarmed Black male. I won’t spill all the tea (in case you haven’t read it yet), but I believe Starr wasn’t the only one who needed to decide how she would handle injustice. I think this is a question for you and me, friend. How would WE handle injustices that happen right in front of us?
Would we turn our backs, close our eyes, and allow ourselves to be gagged in silence?
Or would we speak out? Would we write about it? March about it? Take advantage of our right to vote? Or better yet. Get our ducks in a row so we could run for office.
Change doesn’t happen without intentional action.
Change also doesn’t happen when we refuse to work together with our brothers and sisters of ALL ethnic backgrounds. While I believe it is important to have pride and celebrate the great accomplishments of people of color, I also hope our world learns that injustice, prejudice, and racism remain because we have a heart problem. If we truly loved our neighbors unconditionally, there is no way any of us could speak, think, or do horrific and inhumane things towards each other.
If you don’t take anything else away from The Hate U Give, remember this: everyone isn’t evil. All cops aren’t evil. Neither are all people of color nor Caucasians. Angie Thomas’ intentional pairing of an interracial couple is a reminder of this.
Now it’s up to us, friend. Are we going to love each other unconditionally as we stand united against injustice? Or are we going to close our eyes and continue to cultivate the malice growing from within?