The Hate U Give Confronts Systemic Racism



The Have U Give, based off the young adult novel by Angie Thomas, is directed by George Tillman, Jr. and stars Amandla Stenberg (Courtesy of Facebook)

By Tereza Shkurtaj

Based off the bestselling novel by Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give showcases the harsh realities of American racial politics.
Tupac Shakur’s explanation of the acronym “T.H.U.G L.I.F.E” is incorporated into the novel and film multiple times to help explain the continuous, vicious cycle of today’s social violence.

Audrey Wells, screenwriter, did an exceptional job taking a young adult novel that focuses on the political awakening of a black teen and turning it into an equally powerful film. She did this with the help of director George Tillman, Jr.

Starr Carter, played by Amandla Stenberg, is a part of two separate worlds and struggles to fit into both. At Williamson Prep, she must not use slang, show anger or give side-eye. At school, she is “Williamson Starr” and “doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ‘ghetto’.” In Garden Heights, her predominantly black neighborhood, she has to maintain her image by removing herself from anything that might make her seem “white.”

Her two worlds collapse when her childhood friend, Khalil, is killed by a white police officer who mistakes a hairbrush as a gun.
After the incident, she struggles to hide her connection to the murder from her school community.

Once her friends figure out she was the witness, Starr realizes she can no longer code switch between both worlds.
She decides speaking her truth is the only way she can obtain justice for Khalil and the many other minorities affected by unreasonable police brutality.

One of the most striking scenes in the film shows Starr questioning her Uncle Carlos, played by Common, who happens to be a black police officer that lives in a rich and safe neighborhood near Garden Heights. She asks him one of the most important questions in the film: would he have shot Khalil at that moment? Uncle Carlos lightly defends police officers, explaining how his actions, as well as the police officers, depend on the situation at hand. He tells Starr that “we live in a complicated world.”
Starr disagrees with her uncle’s assessment of the situation and responds “it doesn’t seem that complicated to me.”

The film clearly depicts a divided America, one in which racial discrimination continues. George Tillman, Jr. said he wanted to make the film as real as possible, all while keeping it PG-13. Because of this, Tillman had to be strategic with his usage of expletives. After successfully earning his PG-13 rating, he realized that the lack of curse words made the film seem much less believable and more mainstream. He went back to the M.P.A.A and explained his case.

In an interview with The New York Times, Tillman says that “they knew that the language was not just used as language, it was used to educate and inform.” Tillman was granted permission to use two expletives while keeping the same age rating.
Tillman’s victory was well deserved.

Rotten Tomatoes rightfully assigned the film a 96% average score rating.

The Hate U Give fiercely challenges today’s political climate and is a must-see film for all ages.