The Hardest Part About 'The Hate U Give' Was Starr's Friend's Racist Behavior

If you haven’t seen The Hate U Give yet, you need to run and do that like right now.

This powerful film follows 16 year-old Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) as she deals with the aftermath of witnessing her friend Khalil's (Algee Smith) murder at the hands of a police officer. In the weeks after the shooting, Starr finds herself dealing with a lot of internal and external conflict. She has her friends, family, the media, the police, and the public surrounding her with questions about Khalil’s death.

She also struggles with switching between two entirely different worlds at school and at home. These worlds are so different that Starr has to toggle her personality and carefully think of what she says based on who is around. And on top of all of that, Starr also has to find the voice within her to speak out and stand up for what’s right. Seeing the toll it takes on her as the film goes on is devastating, but one thing that really struck me was the attitude of one of Starr’s best friends, Hailey Grant (Sabrina Carpenter).

Hailey and Starr, along with their other friend Maya (Megan Lawless), are a tight-knit group who attend school at Williamson Prep. They play basketball, talk about boys and hang out just like any other group of friends do. But as the aftermath of Khalil’s death reaches new heights and his name starts to appear more frequently in the news, it puts a strain on their relationship—specifically Starr and Hailey’s. Starr is weary of how much information she reveals to the girls, the main question being whether or not she should tell them she knew Khalil. As a viewer, I wanted Starr to feel like she could inform them about everything that was going on in her life. She needed people in addition to her family who could be a support system. Sadly, that was not what she received.

It’s clear as the movie goes on that Hailey is indeed a racist, as she goes on to make alarming comments before and after it’s revealed that Starr was the witness in Khalil’s death. First, as they’re playing basketball after lunch, Hailey thinks it’s a good idea to motivate Starr to play harder by telling her to “pretend [the ball] is a piece of fried chicken." Later, she tells Starr about the protest in supposed “justice” for Khalil that the school is forming. When Starr challenges its real purpose, Hailey admits that she considers it a great excuse to get out of class. This catches her off-guard, and we can see that this is where Starr really begins to question Hailey’s character and their friendship. The tension reaches its breaking point in the third act of the film, when they confront each other in the school yard. Hailey goes all the way with her racism and prejudice, stoking Starr’s anger by agreeing with her that she doesn’t have a problem with Starr because she's a “non-threatening black [person]," adding, “your friend wasn’t. “He was a drug dealer. Someone was probably gonna kill him eventually.”

I connected with Starr and almost felt her pain watching Hailey say those things to her. She was facing the unimaginable and now had to deal with one of her closest friends basically admitting she is a racist. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I heard someone who I thought was my friend telling me she thinks my other friend’s murder was justified. Thankfully, she still had Maya to lean on, and they both decided to cut Hailey out of their lives. But those words will likely still stick with Starr as she begins her journey of coping with the fallout of Khalil's death and the grand jury’s verdict. I remember hearing the shock from the audience every time Hailey stepped out of line with her comments. It was jolting to hear such terrible things just so casually come out of her mouth. It was a reminder that racism doesn’t always have to be overt. It can be closer to you thank you think.

As a POC, it’s especially important to vet your friends and those who are around you. If Hailey said all of that to Starr’s face, just imagine what she could’ve been saying behind her back. Watching Starr dealing with everything from Khalil’s death was upsetting, but everything about Hailey was completely disheartening.