The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas explores the depths of one sixteen year-old’s life and the struggles she faces daily as a black female who has grown up in an underprivileged neighborhood and developed her emotions, thoughts and feelings through time and tragedy. Starr Carter’s life is quickly turned upside down when she is faced with the trouble her father always warned her about—police violence. This young girl is lost and confused as she witnesses the tragic death of one of her best friends since she was only three years old as a result of systemic inequality, which slowly breaks down the fragile divide she has between the two lives she lives everyday—one in poor Garden Heights and the other at her prep school. The inequalities between the binary of blacks and whites in the two social communities that she is apart of are prominent and allow the readers to truly immerse themselves in the way that racism and permanent inequality feels.
The author brings close attention to the two clashing societies that Starr is a part of and the social injustices that occur as the individuals within the society interact as a whole unit. Class is an axis of stratification and can be explained through the inequalities regarding the wealthy and the poor. In a conversation between Starr and her father she explains, “it’s what society feeds us as youth and how it comes back and bites them later. . . I think it’s about more than the youth though. I think it’s about us. . .black people, minorities, poor people, everyone at the bottom of society” (Thomas 168). The young children within a specific social structure often grow older to resemble the history placed before them, through their own agents of socialization such as the school the attend, the family they are born into or the media they see on a regular basis as well as the access they have to opportunities and making decisions in the world around them. “Same shit, different century. I wish people like them would stop thinking people like me need saving” (Thomas 246). Change in regards to oppression and discrimination is nearly impossible if society fails to recognize they’re a present force. The Hate U Give gives a clear understanding of the subordinate and dominant relationships and how members of a society view them as well as how it truly feels to be a member of the subordinate group and suffer the consequences of being a subordinate. These relationships can lead to discrimination, not only in race but also with class and gender, even if it is “outside the consciousness of the individual” (Durkheim 1).
Although the book is written in the perspective of Starr Carter, there are valuable points throughout the reading when other perspectives are given that illustrate how there is most certainly a significant manipulation of society through discrimination and/or oppression through human behaviors and interactions. In a school where Starr is “Whites have developed a new, powerful ideology that justifies contemporary racial inequality and thus helps maintain ‘systemic white privilege’” (Rothenberg 114). The story tells the truths about how white individuals are cultivated to believe that they are not discriminatory and also the idea that white people are fair-minded in the treatment of others. Not only is this present in Starr’s live with the justice system and the racial tensions intertwined throughout her experience but also in her daily life with her peers in the school she attends. Two eye-opening moments in regards to color-blind racism that hit hard were both stated by a sixteen year-old white female. “You can say something racist and not be a racist” as well as “He was a drug dealer and a gangbanger, somebody was going to kill him anyways” (Thomas 112, 341). These moments allow the reader to feel the ache and the pain of a black individual in the midst of a the present times, where racism and performing “whiteness” are ignored and members of the subordinate groups of society are dehumanized.
The Hate U Give is a very compelling story that truly puts the reader in the shoes of a black girl existing in American society today with very relatable moments of truth, heartache, pain and love. The author allows the reader to put themselves in the shoes of an individual who struggles with racial inequality, sharing her voice, grief, friendship, addiction and how media in the 21st century portrays black individuals and societies. A light of truth is shed on the police violence that takes place and the layers underneath why the violence and the death of innocent people are happening so often. This text has a number of draw-dropping, tear-jerking moments that will leave the reader entranced in the life of a black female during a time where police violence and injustice is so common. Reflection is brought upon the reader in a way that allows for connections to his or her own biography, history, ideas, beliefs or positions in society. The social construction of racism is explored through two very different societies, yet the inequalities are interwoven through human actions, feelings and thoughts everywhere. Violence, discrimination and oppression are still occurring throughout the world today and nothing is going to change without the people who recognize that it is happening and change the culture, language and behaviors of those contributing. The story allows the reader to understand and feel the oppression and struggles that are involved in inequality, speaking out, heartbreak and so much more.