Review: ‘The Hate U Give’, This Is America

The Hate U Give/20th Century Fox

“The hate you gave little infants f*** everybody. What you feed us as seeds, grows and blows up in your face.” -Tupac Shakur

Angie Thomas’s novel The Hate U Give became an instant when it was released in February 2017. It stayed on the New York Times YA best-seller list for a whopping 50 weeks.  The novel is about a teenage girl, Starr (Amandla Stenberg), who witnessed her childhood friend, Khalil (Algee Smith), being shot and killed by an officer.  The novel is based on a short story that Thomas wrote after Oscar Grant was killed in 2009.

The Hate U Give is a film by us for us. A culturally relevant film that offers the opportunity for moviegoers to have further conversations on the topics of police involved shootings, the justice system, code-switching, race and color blindness.

The film is narrated by Starr who brilliantly shows the audience the complexity of her life. Starr lives in Garden heights, a predominately black neighborhood that is plagued with gang violence but attends a predominately white private high school in a wealthier zip code called Williamson Prep with her half-brother Seven. Starr explains that there are two versions of herself. Garden Heights Starr embraces her community and culture but hides her white boyfriend Chris played by K.J. Apa. Williamson Prep Starr silences her slang, diminishes her personality and avoids all social issues. She doesn’t want to be a charity case or “ghetto.”

The Hate U Give/ 20th Century Fox

The opening of the film is very powerful and very in your face. This is Black America.

In a voice-over, Starr recalls her father, Maverick (Russell Hornsby) giving the all too familiar “the talk” to herself and her younger brothers.  “When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual birds and bees… The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me.”  He instills the tenets of the Black Panther Party’s Ten-Point program and let’s his children know to be proud of their Blackness.

“If you don’t see my Blackness then you don’t see me.”

Starr and Khalil stumble across one another at a house party but their trip down memory lane ends abruptly when gunshots ring out, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Khalil offers to take her home and they stop to talk about old and new times. They both having feelings for each other, but Starr must put them on hold because she has a boyfriend. Khalil in turn let’s Starr know they have time.

Moments later, time was taken away from Starr and Khalil when he is killed during a traffic stop. A white police officer mistakes his hair brush for a gun. Starr has witnessed her friend’s death and the weight of the investigation is on her shoulders. The perfect balancing act of Starr version one and Starr version falls apart when word gets out that she was the sole witness to Khalil’s death. Garden Heights wants her to handle the situation one way and her Williamson Prep best friend, Hailey, wants her to All Lives Matter the situation. Starr’s uncle, Carlos (Common), is an officer and explains his bias in a gut-wrenching scene that’s all too familiar. It is up to Starr to find out who she really is and to find her voice.

“It is impossible to be unarmed when my Blackness is the weapon you fear.” – Rev. Traci Blackmon

The Hate U Give is a powerful film with a complicated subject matter. While fictional, the film depicts the all too real realities of what happens when an unarmed Black teenager is killed by a white police officer. A wash, rinse, repeat cycle. There are moments of pure frustration, anger and tears…it’s not all a drag. The film is also funny and heartwarming. The Hate U Give will leave moviegoers with their own question. How will you use your voice to speak up for the voiceless?

The Hate U Give opens in selects theaters today and everywhere October 19.