Why It's So Important That 'The Hate U Give' Is Told From A Black Female Perspective

The Black experience in America is something one could only fully understand by living it themselves. It is unique and forces us to change the way we live our daily lives and interact with the world around us. To be black in America means to understand your place in the eyes of others, especially those in positions of power—this especially concerning the police.

In The Hate U Give, police brutality is the part of the Black experience that takes center stage. Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) is dealing with the aftermath of witnessing the murder of her childhood friend Khalil (Algee Smith), who died at the hands of a police officer. The film is told entirely through her eyes: we learn about her experience as a young black girl, living in a black neighborhood while attending a private school with mostly whites, and how violence has affected her life in the past and present. The point-of-view this story is told is unique—Starr is, after all, a teenaged black girl. Very seldom do we see movies where young black girls are at the heart. And in reality, very seldom do we see black girls and women at the focal point in the conversation around police brutality.

Erika Doss/Twentieth Century FoxPolice brutality in America has been a very hot topic over the last few years. Though its existence isn’t new, the conversation around it has increased sharply, likely due to the dominance of social media and our ability to be connected to virtually every part of the country—and the world. One thing people have noticed about the conversation is that black men are almost always at the forefront. And while police violence does affect them greatly, it’s important that we highlight the women who are also affected.

Black women are rarely part of the discourse when we talk about the impact it has on us as individuals, our families and our communities. In The Hate U Give, we get the chance to experience it through the eyes of one. We see how Khalil’s death and the circus around it is impacting Starr, her mother, and the rest of her family. We get to see how it affects her from the inside out—from her frightening dreams and flashbacks, to her breaking point that results in her physical encounter at school with Hailey (Sabrina Carpenter) in retaliation.

The film’s director George Tillman Jr. talked to NPR about the importance of the story being told from her POV: “For some audiences, there is something about getting it from the perspective of someone who has so much innocence, who has so little experience. You literally witness this girl become a woman. You see her forced into adulthood because of her trauma. And I think there's something about that. At least for adults, there's something about seeing a child go through this. And my hope was that people will look at real-life 16-year-olds in these cases and actually see them as children and not as adults.”

It’s important that black women are further included in the conversation, especially because we are also subject to the violence. The deaths of Sandra Bland, Miriam Carey, Rekia Boyd and more have brought attention to the fear we too have when dealing with police. According to the Washington University in St. Louis, a study found that black women are the most likely to have been unarmed when killed by police. While the odds of being killed by police when unarmed were about the same for black and white males, the high percentage of unarmed black women killed by police significantly increased the overall odds for unarmed blacks. “Although Black women are routinely killed, raped, and beaten by the police, their experiences are rarely foregrounded in popular understandings of police brutality,” said Crenshaw, director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies and co-author of the report. “Yet, inclusion of Black women’s experiences in social movements, media narratives, and policy demands around policing and police brutality is critical to effectively combatting racialized state violence for Black communities and other communities of color.”

And if black women aren’t dying at the hands of direct police force, it’s affecting us second-handedly. It has been seen in studies and example cases, like Erica Garner, that the stress and pain that results from the loss of a loved one can be deadly. It is something like a slow death, where the sorrow can eat at someone and cause their health to deteriorate. Essentially, Black women are dying from the trauma of police violence. 

The significance of Starr leading a story of police brutality should not be lost on anyone. We need black women’s voices to be amplified in the conversation. It is vital that such an important and sensitive topic includes perspectives of everyone affected. The Hate U Give is essential viewing to grasp the negative effects of the policing of black bodies. Watch it not only for the story itself but for the way it is told. In witnessing the way Starr deals with the trauma, one can gain just a little more insight of the Black Experience in America as a whole.