The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
“You can destroy brick and wood, but you can’t destroy a movement.”
Probably one of the most powerful YA novels written in a long time. Eloquently and empathetically written, this book touches a chord with anyone who reads it.
Starr Carter comes from a black neighbourhood, but goes to a white highschool, and finds she has difficulty fitting in in either place. Everything in her life changes when her childhood friend Khalil offers to drive her home from a party. He is pulled over by the cops, and gunned down when he reaches for a hairbrush. Starr becomes the key witness to what went down that night, which makes her a target for either side of a debate that rapidly blows up out of control. While she had no control over the events that led her to the place where she is, Starr must decide whether she will be the voice of a movement against racism.
A book about racism that delves into topics of police brutality. Sound familiar? This book isn’t prophetic, it is an epitath for the many many souls unfairly targeted and abused for the colour of their skin. This happens at the hands of the police, sure. But it’s also done systematically, through every institution. Over and over and over again.
In Canada, we look to our American neighbours and think “boy, they’ve got problems.” And they do. But so too does Canada. And Switzerland. And France. And … talk about a pandemic. So let’s not go throwing stones.
Instead of condemnation, what our broken society needs is more compassion, and understanding of where people are coming from. A person’s actions cannot be judged without the context of their life experience. And I know a lot of people who shake their finger, saying ‘we must all obey the law, we are all equal under the law.’
Except that’s bullshit, and you have to be extremely privileged to believe in that fantasy. You need only turn on the news to see the level of injustice, inequality and oppression that is the underlying cause of so many wrongs in society.
I am white, and I am only learning the extent of my white privilege as I get older. I strive to educate myself, and to be an ally. Here are some good references if you are looking to further inform yourself on white privilege: My White Friend Asked Me To Explain White Privilege, Unpacking the Knapsack, and Resources for White People to Learn and Talk About Race and Racism.
Luckily, literary fiction can do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to creating human connection and understanding between race, class, gender, sexual identity and other divides that exist. Books like The Hate U Give are essential in helping people see exactly how complicated and dark the world can be. But it also shows there is still love within families, there is still faith within communities, and there is still hope when people are willing to fight against evil. This will be required reading in my home when my kids are old enough.
Black lives matter.