On October 7, 2018, 20th Century Fox released The Hate U Give to U.S. theaters. This movie is based on the novel by Angie Thomas. It sparked controversy because it showed Starr, the main character, witnessing her friend Khalil being murdered by a police officer. The reason that this movie affected so many people is because the film is relatable, a little too relatable. In the film, Khalil was murdered because he reached for a hairbrush, which the officer assumed was a gun. In reality, many of the victims of police brutality were unarmed, some were armed with non-threatening items like a bag of skittles; Trayvon Martin or a toy; Tamir Rice. The arguments used in court for these deaths were that there was not enough substantial evidence. As a result of these real life murders, every police altercation is required to be filmed in some states.
Another issue the movie tackled was identity issues that are often faced by minorities. People of color, Black people especially feel the need to alter the way they express themselves, or “code switch” to fit into predominately white and Black spaces alike. In the movie, Starr lives in what is known as a lower income community called Garden Heights. but, she attends a predominantly white private school in an affluent area. In an attempt to fit in, Starr has to be the non-threatening polite black girl since they know where she is from. When she is with her Garden Heights friends she carries and expresses herself differently. Starr’s actions and not uncommon in reality, especially in the workplace or at school. Many minorities feel that if they do not code switch they won’t be taken seriously and will be seen as inarticulate, uneducated, and unintelligent. In the film, Starr begins to begins to feel like her worlds are colliding. A particular scene stood out to me in this film. During the scene, Starr’s friend made a comment about how she feels bad for the officer and that Khalil was threatening. Starr asks her friend if a hairbrush in Khalil’s hand was threatening and she replies “yes”, then Starr asks if there is weapon in her hand and she replies no. Star repeatedly swung the brush at her while she laid on the ground crying. Many times, as a result of successful code-switching, minorities befriend prejudice people. The ones who judge everyone that looks like you, but somehow “you’re not like them.”
After this point, Starr realizes she must use her voice and protest due to the failure of the justice system. The protest is met with militant force and they are tear gassed; a similar event occurred during the Ferguson protests and the Oscar Grant protests, both of which inspired the book and movie. After the tear gas scene, there is a very symbolic moment that ties everything together. Her father is in a fight with King, a drug lord that wants Starr dead. Her father reaches for his gun, but turns to see Starr’s baby brother Sekani has it. Police officers arrive on the scene and do not ask any questions. They just pull the guns out and point them at the baby brother. This scene is monumental; it shows how Black people are viewed through the eye of many officers. No matter the age, Black people are often seen as dangerous and a threat to society. The little brother is no more than 7 years old, still, they kept the guns pointed on him. Starr then interjects and jumps in front of her little brother and asks, “how many of us have to die for you to get it?”. This question is important because it was not only posed a the actors onscreen, nor was it exclusive to those who wear a badge. This question was for everyone who had prejudged a person of color and put their lives in danger by calling the police, for every person who figured Trayvon Martin “got what he deserved” for dressing a certain way, and for the justice system who had failed so many people too many times. Starr then states “It’s not the hate you give, it’s the hate we give”, everyone contributes to this vicious cycle and we must do better.
Movies that depict police brutality are always bound to spark controversy. On one hand, there is activist groups like #BlackLivesMatter explaining to people that this is what they are talking about. On the other hand, other groups like #BlueLivesMatter complain that the film is problematic and does not represent the actions of all police officers. Besides this factor, there are other factors that show the things black people go through from code switching and fitting in certain spaces.
The truth is, we need movies like the The Hate U Give, because they force us to see the truth, even when we try our hardest to avoid it.