By Mia Abeyawardene & Alex Challies
Based on the critically-acclaimed novel by Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give follows 16-year-old Starr Carter, who witnesses the death of her friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer – a narrative that is all too familiar in the last decade.
The film opens with Starr and her siblings receiving ‘the talk’ from her father about how to behave around the police in order to stay out of trouble. This opening scene is so powerful because viewers are immediately shown that fear of police brutality and tensions around race are conversations that black children grow up with, preparing them for a seemingly inevitable experience and how to escape it alive. The advice that Starr’s father gives them follows from the Black Panther’s Ten Point Program, which outlines the philosophical views of the party and the rights that African Americans should have, but are denied.
Despite her father’s advice, Starr later finds herself in an altercation with a police officer, and her friend Khalil is murdered on suspicion of brandishing a gun – which is later found out to be a hairbrush. Up till that point, Starr had led two seemingly distinct lives. One, in the neighbourhood that she grew up in with king lords and gang violence, and the other at a suburban predominantly white private school. After Khalil is shot her two worlds begin to collide. Starr becomes aware that if she testifies, the kinglords in Garden Heights may threaten her for being a snitch, while her white classmates will see her as a poor girl from a dangerous neighbourhood.
Following Khalil’s death, the media mainly focuses on the fact that Khalil was a drug dealer, rather than mourning his life and holding the officer who killed him accountable. Issa Rae, famously known for the hit series Insecure, plays a social activist who encourages Starr to speak out publicly. Recovering from the shock of the death of her friend, Starr is initially apprehensive. As the movie progresses, and tensions within Starr’s identity arise, we later see her finding her voice and channelling her frustration to shed light on the injustice facing her community, chanting through a bullhorn: “Khalil mattered because he lived! Khalil lived!”
Earlier this year, a young black woman called Nia Wilson was murdered in cold blood, prompting Anne Hathaway to call out white privilege on instagram saying ‘how decent are we really?’ As the number of these cases increases, each name gets lost in a sea of hashtags, and so many fail to challenge the systemic oppression of racial structures beyond sharing a post. The topic of engaging with racism online is also addressed in the movie, as Starr is upset by her friend Hayley unfollowing her on tumblr after she posts disturbing images of Emmett Till’s mutilated body – a black boy who was falsely accused of cat calling a white woman in the 1950s. Throughout the movie Hayley makes fried chicken jokes, uses appropriated language frequently and organises a protest for Khalil just so that she can get out of a day of school, highlighting how frustrating performative allyship can be.
The title of the book is referenced in the movie as coming from the Tupac lyric ‘the hate you give little infants fucks everybody.’ The movie begins with Starr and her siblings as infants being warned about the hate and discrimination they will face, and ends with them trying to strike the balance navigating their anger while making peace with injustice.
The movie ends on a heartfelt, if not slightly cheesy note, as Starr returns to a box of childhood memories and the song ‘Ocean Eyes’ by actress Billie Eilish plays out into the credits; ‘You really know how to make me cry when you gimme those ocean eyes’. Amidst the tragedy and distressing events, she maintains a sense of optimism and hope looking towards the future.