The Hate U Give is a film based on the bestselling novel by Angie Thomas. The film first premiered in October 2018 and grossed $29.7 million in the United States and Canada. It is about a black teenager named, Starr Carter, who is code switcher travelling between two worlds — the black ghetto streets where she lives and the preppy white school that she attends. The balance between the worlds is shattered when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Starr faces pressure from both communities: to find her voice and stand up for what’s right or to let it go and act like it didn’t happen and won’t happen again.
How to Handle Interactions with the Police
The film starts with a black father having “The Talk” with his three children: Starr, her brother: Seven and their younger brother: Sekani, at the dining room table. The father has a serious look on his face and a stern tone. This is a very serious conversation. The children have their hands on the table straight out in front of them. No movement is being made. Their father is training them on what to do if they ever get pulled over by the police. He tells them, “don’t act mad, stay calm. Make sure to answer their questions but don’t tell them anything extra. And if you drop something, leave it there.” He makes sure they understand; they nod their heads. The father continues, “keep your hands out of your pockets. Police get nervous around us so keep your hands posted where they can see them, and don’t move. It can get real dangerous, so don’t argue with them.” They all stay clam. The father reminds his children of their power, “don’t forgot being black is an honor because you come from greatness.”
Living in Two Worlds – Dating, Entrepreneurship & Code Switching
The next scene in the film features Starr as a teenager in her bedroom covered with Fresh Prince and TLC posters on the walls and listening to Kendrick Lamar’s song “DNA” as she gets ready for school. She walks in the kitchen for breakfast and watches her parents flirting and being cute. She says that black love is a one true pairing. Hinting at the racial divide made between races mixing their cultures and bloodlines. She is already giving us an example of how many black people feel about the importance of unity in the black community and how dating within the race creates a powerful legacy and lifestyle for and from someone who understands you and what you’re going through in order to develop an everlasting love and unconditional sacrifice.
The family leaves the house and we get a quick tour of their neighborhood. We see all the local black owned businesses: Rueben BBQ, Lewis barbershop, and Carter’s grocery store. We learn in the car ride that the mother went to high school in this neighborhood and wants her children to have a better opportunity to get ahead. She pulls up in front of the preppy white school named, Williamson, where everyone is said to be college bound. Starr and Seven enter the school. When Starr encounters her friends, she immediately code switches. She calls this version of herself Starr Version 2: she does not use slang because even though it makes white people cool, it makes black people more “hood”. Starr Version 2 is not confrontational. Starr Version 2 does not give anyone a reason to call her “ghetto”.
Next, we learn that Starr is dating a white boy, named Chris. Uh-oh. After school, she goes to his house to hang out and he pulls out a condom, hinting at sex. She says she’s not ready. Even though she likes him a lot, she hasn’t told her parents about him and has no intention of introducing them to each other because he’s white and she knows her father is pro-black. This presents a dilemma for Starr throughout the film. Her father raised her to be a young educated black woman who knows the value of herself and would never accept that she is dating outside of her race.
The Traffic Stop – Terror and Nightmares
On Saturday night, Starr goes to a party where she runs into an old chilld hood friend, Khalil. You can tell Starr likes him. They get on the dance floor together and make jokes about their addictive sneaker habits. They’re having fun when all of sudden gunshots are fired outside and everyone runs out of the house party, scattering up and down the street. Khalil offers to give Starr a ride home to ensure her safety. In this car ride, he plays Tupac’s song “Keep Ya Head Up.” They talk about how Tupac was a visionary and what his mantra T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. meant: The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody. Khalil pulls over on a side street to talk to Starr and catch up… Then this happens…
Starr was taken back to the precinct. During the time she was in custody, the detectives and officers only asked negative questions about Khalil, trying to find out anything that might paint Khalil in a negative light to justify the officer’s actions. The reality of it is that none of this would’ve happened if European colonizers didn’t capture and auction off human beings of African descent into slavery, thus psychologically causing any white person to fear a person of brown or black complexion because they believe we want payback and/or reparations for what was done to us when we really want to be treated equally and to have the civil rights guaranteed to us as citizens of the U.S.A.
The following week, Starr is having nightmares of Khalil’s death. She wakes up frightened and nausea. Her father was prepared for this to happen and leaves an empty bucket by her bed. He’s there when she wakes up. He assures her things will get better but to make change, she needs to make a choice and shine her light on the issue. Starr pays her respects to Khalil’s family members. Here we meet Starr’s Uncle Carlos who is a local police officer. He pays his respects to Khalil’s family. He also informs them that the officer is on paid administrative leave because nothing like this has occurred on his record before, however, the case has the chance to go to a grand jury, if Starr testifies as a witness. She’s conflicted on what to do because she doesn’t want the media attention to split her double lives.
White Privilege and Black Problems
Later that week, her white friends, Hailey and others, make a fried chicken joke during basketball practice in reference to their lunch that day but Starr takes it as a racist joke and leaves. She starts to rethink the security and loyalty of her double life. As protests continue throughout the city seeking Justice for Khalil, it becomes a trending topic in the news and on social media. Williamson students decide to have a protest at school to get out of taking exams. Starr becomes extremely upset, “they’re acting like Khalil was murdered so they could skip a chemistry test. Like he did something for them… Like it’s a good thing.” She finally makes up her mind to testify as a witness and goes on air with a blurred face and voice alteration, but you can tell it is still her.
A local gang run by Starr’s second uncle, King, show up at a restaurant and are watching the family from outside. Starr’s father, Maverick goes outside to threaten them so they’ll leave his family alone. The police show up and King drives off. Starr pulls out her phone to record the officers harassing her father. One of the officers commands her to stop recording and she says, “I have a right to record this.” (since she made the mistake of not recording Khalil’s encounter with the police). The police finish harassing the father and they leave the restaurant. When the family gets home, they’re given an exercise to perform and recite.
A few days later, Starr is hanging out at Hailey’s house after school when a news report of the officer who shot Khalil plays on the TV. Hailey’s first response to the report is, “wow, that sucks. His poor family. He was only doing his job and protecting himself.” Starr disagrees with Hailey and they get into an argument. Starr mentions how Hailey unfollowed her on Tumblr and other social media due to Starr’s recent pro-black posts and she believes that Hailey is a racist. Following this argument, they stop being friends and don’t talk to each other anymore.
At prom, people are staring and sharing whispers when Starr enters the building with her white boyfriend, Chris. Starr feels like an outcast and decides to leave the prom. She sits in the car with Chris and talks to him about what’s on her mind. Starr starts by asking Chris, “have you ever seen somebody die?”. His answer is no. She explains to him why she’s at Williamson and about how she lives a double life, code switching between the two worlds. She gets emotional remembering Khalil and admits, “Khalil was my first crush, my first kiss, and he was going through some much and I turned my back on him. On all of my people. Do you know what that’s like?” Chris is still unable to relate.
The Systematic Population Control of Black People
The next day, Starr is having a conversation with her Uncle Carlos about how police officer’s perceive, react and handle situations when interacting with white people versus interacting with black people.
Every white person needs to see this film because it provides a valid depiction of what black people feel and have to go through on a daily basis living in America as human beings who are not appreciated and treated equally. We are literally living in two worlds under one country’s name.
Shining a Light – The Harsh Reality of White America
When the Grand Jury trial takes place, Starr testifies about all of Khalil’s good qualities and how much of a good person he was to the people around him. Starr is back at school and adjusting to being alone. Hailey walks up to her and asks, “so I guess you’re not going to get over it?” At first, Starr doesn’t take Hailey seriously and is intrigued by the question. Then they start going back and forth with each other until Starr is fed up and completely goes off. This scene is an illustration of white privilege in America. If you cannot recognize what is going on, show some respect, ally with your black friends in time of need… Then, you are the problem. You are unaware of the effects of your white privilege on others. By remaining silent, you show your true colors and what side of history you stand on.
And as if losing two friends wasn’t enough, Starr soon gets a text message that her uncle King got into a fight with her brother, Seven, who is recovering from recent gunshot wounds. She goes home to search for her brother but he’s not there. She grabs her cousins and they leave. As they’re driving through the city, they notice a group of protesters headed towards City Hall. It turns out that the Grand Jury did not indict the police officer. Starr sees her brother in the crowd and joins him. When they reach City Hall, there’s a SWAT Team waiting there. Although, these people are demonstrating a peaceful protest, they are instructed to leave. But, they refuse to be moved willingly and are taken by force. The SWAT Team beat, arrest and throw tear gas in to the crowd of protesters. Starr picks up a tank of tear gas and throws it back at them.
T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. – The Hate U Give
Starr and Seven run from the protest site to safety. They are picked up by some local civilians who know their father. They get dropped off at their father’s shop, where the civilians help pour milk in Starr’s eyes and Seven’s eyes to clear the tear gas. They leave to continue the protest. Starr and Seven stay inside the shop, hoping that they’ll be safe until the protest dies down.
This is the pivotal point of the film where we the meaning of T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. is explained in a moment where a child’s life is at stake and he becomes the cause of danger. We see Starr in shock, analyzing and seeing the situation exactly as horrible as it is happening. She takes the lead and stands in front of her younger brother with her hands up. She does not fear what could happen to her because she makes it clear that this is wrong and that this situation needs to be handled better from all sides of it: by the cops, by her feuding father and uncle, by her brothers, etc.
The film ends with the meanings of the trio’s names: Sekani = joy, Seven = perfection, Khalil = friend, & Starr = light. Every young, black character in this film played a part in the meaning of the story. They serve a larger purpose in our understanding of the overall film. Think about the meanings of their names along with the theme and scenes portrayed; do you see how it all fits together?