The World Needs More People Like Starr
Angie Thomas shocked the world with her debut young-adult novel, The Hate U Give. The New York Times #1 best seller spread like wildfire and is in post-production, set to hit theatres in October of 2018. Thomas was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi and a former teen rapper. Inspired by current events, the Black Lives Matter movement, and her own childhood as a young African American woman in Mississippi. The Hate U Giveexamines racism, police brutality, gang violence, the feeling of not fitting in, and how to find one’s own voice.
In The Hate U Give, Thomas follows Starr Carter’s double life. Starr, an African American teenage girl living in the poor inner-city streets of Garden Heights, attends a majority-white private school, Williamson Prep, 45 minutes away from her house. Starr’s dad never wanted them to leave their home in Garden Heights. It was where he grew up, owned a local grocery store, and where he wanted to raise his own children. Yet, both of Starr’s parents knew the importance of a strong gang-free education.
Starr is a rule-following quiet girl. All she wants is to go to school, play basketball, hang out with her boyfriend Chris, and watch re-runs of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. At a party in Garden Heights, Starr feels out of place and overwhelmed by the hordes of people she doesn’t know. Finally, she finds the familiar face of Khalil, Starr’s hazel-eyed dimple-smile childhood friend. Suddenly, shots are fired at the party, Khalil grabs Starr’s hand, and they run for an exit. Khalil drives Starr home, but gets pulled over in the process. Khalil mouths off to the officer who asks him to exit the car and leave his hands on the hood of the vehicle. Instead of staying in place, Khalil went back to check on Starr. While he opened the door, he was shot three times. Starr says:
I’m ten again, watching Natasha drop (Thomas 23).
Khalil and Starr experienced this before. At the age of ten they watched their friend, Natasha, die in the street of Garden Heights, now Starr is the only one left from their group of three. Gun violence and gang culture is a serious issue that plagues inner-city youth today. The police should provide security and peace of mind to the neighborhoods. Yet, in reality, they are mistrusted by the public because of their history of racism and brutality.
The losses Starr has suffered and the daily fears she feels are nothing like what her friends from Williamson go through. Starr “realized Williamson is one world and Garden Heights is another, and [she has] to keep them separate” (Thomas 36).
At school, Starr knows she has to keep her home life to herself, for fear that she will end up looking like the stereotypical black girl every white kid sees on social media platforms. Starr knows she can’t talk to her white friends about Khalil’s death because no matter how much they may try; their biases get in the way of the ability to empathize with her. This is an incredibly important issue minorities face every day, yet many people ignore it. Starr’s white friend from school, Hailey, after seeing the local news segment about the shooting, responded to Khalil’s death, like so:
‘Yes, get over it! He was probably gonna end up dead anyway.’ ‘Are you serious?’ Maya says. ‘He was a drug dealer and a gangbanger,’ Hailey says. ‘Somebody was gonna kill him eventually.’ ‘Get over it?’ I repeat. She folds her arms and does this little neck movement. ‘Um, yeah? Isn’t that what I said? The cop probably did everyone a favor. One less drug dealer on the—’ I move Maya out the way and slam my fist against the side of Hailey’s face. It hurts, but damn it feels good (Thomas 341).
Hailey is showing her racial biases without having any form of sympathy for Starr. In response, Starr, for the first time, stood up for herself and Khalil. Instead of letting this incident push her back into her fake private-school self, Starr begins to find her own voice in both her worlds. Starr’s attorney, Ms. Ofrah, reminds all of us the importance of our voices, saying:
You can destroy wood and brick, but you can’t destroy a movement (Thomas 409).
After the courts decide to acquit Officer 115 of the shooting of Khalil, riots broke out in the inner-city streets and Starr decided to follow her rage and be a part of the movement. Starr spots her lawyer standing on a car with a bullhorn. Starr’s lawyer pushes Starr to speak out.
[Ms. Ofrah] takes me to the patrol car and motions at her colleague. The lady climbs off and hands Ms. Ofrah the bullhorn. Ms. Ofrah passes it over to me. ‘Use your weapon,’ she says. … The bullhorn is as heavy as a gun (Thomas 411).
I love the imagery of the bullhorn being Starr’s gun. Words can be an effective weapon. This is lost on our generation because pop culture tells us that guns make us strong when really guns are the vehicle for what tears us apart.
Starr finds her voice by standing up for the memory of her friend. It’s incredibly powerful to see a young person taking a stand against the common themes that were implemented by the previous generations using peaceful yet strong tactics. If there were more people like Starr, maybe we wouldn’t be living in such a polarized world today. Young people are more empowered today than they have been ever before, and we need to be willing to speak truth to power. We as a generation have the ability to break down the wall that stands between our own “us” and “them;” and Starr provides an amazing example of strength and courage we should all try to follow.
Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give. HarperCollins, 2017.
Thomas, Angie. “About.” Angie Thomas, angiethomas.com/about.