The Gordian Knot Of America In The Hate U Give By Angie Thomas
African Americans or the Afro-Americans are a minority group who were once called Negroes and now are known as the Blacks. They are primarily descendants of the slaves brought from Africa to America, between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. The student researcher has focused upon the subject of racism and police brutality within the Afro-American community, as depicted in the novel The Hate U Give, written by Angie Thomas.
Inspired by the late rapper Tupac Shakur, according to whom the THUG LIFE stood for “The Hate You Gave Little Infants F***s Everybody meaning which you should feed us as seeds, grows and blows up in your face.” (Hip Hop Classic 00:04-00:16) The Hate U Give is about a sixteen-year-old girl, Starr Carter, who balances the struggle within her two lives- her Garden Heights (her poor neighborhood) life and her Williamson (her posh high school) life. However, finally, everything gets shattered once she witnesses her childhood best friend Khalil Harris’s fatal killing by the police.
Angie Thomas is a famous novelist who has majorly focused upon the problems of the Afro-Americans in America, in both her writings. She is well known for her books The Hate U Give and On the Come Up. Her first novel, The Hate U Give, was a #1 New York Times Best Seller under the category of Young Adult Books, just one week after it was published.
In the story, Starr goes back home with her friend Khalil after a party. On the way, a police officer by the badge number ‘One-Fifteen’ stops them. Things get worse and suddenly the police shoot Khalil. This is understood when she says, “he pats Khalil down…falls to the ground.” (26-27) Throughout the novel, Starr highlights the incidents, especially, the murder of her best friends Khalil and Natasha. In America, the huge police force is considered to be the primary agent of racism and criminalization of the black community. In recent times too, major killings have taken place and the author has highlighted these cases in the last few lines of the novel, “It’s also about Oscar. Aiyana. Trayvon. Rekia. Michael. Eric. Tamir. John. Ezell. Sandra. Freddie. Alton. Philando. It’s even about that little boy in 1955 who nobody recognized at first-Emmet”. (437) In one interview, the author had said, “When these unarmed black people lose their lives, they hate they’ve been given screws us all. We see it in the form of anger and we see it in the form of riots.” (Thomas, The Hate U Give)
Racism, which started in America in the 1900s, is a major subject as well. A sort of white supremacy was built within the society. Laws, such as the Jim Crow Law, and various old customs created a separation between the races, in both North and South America. The blacks were denied equal public amenities and saw that they lived separately from whites. Even going to schools and churches was divided. In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857) that Afro-Americans were not U.S. citizens. “Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination in employment and banned race-based segregation, as well as sporadic efforts by successive US governments to tackle racial inequalities, racism still looms large in 21st-century America” (Houston, “Being Black in America”) In the novel, Starr’s father Maverick explains to her about the problems they (Afro-Americans) face. Maverick says “Right, Lack of opportunities” “Corporate America don’t bring jobs…neighborhoods don’t prepare us well enough”. (168) In these lines, Maverick tries to say that the blacks in America do not get proper education, job opportunities, and protection from police brutality, and, rather, are seen as inferior to the whites. He also explains about the thug life in America, where some people get addicted to drugs as they have nothing to do and where some people sell drugs to make money for their living – “You got folks…That’s Thug Life.” (168-169)
The author, through Starr, connects historical slavery with the present law and shows that the Afro-Americans have been suffering such a trauma for years because of which the anger and frustration within them are still present. this is seen when she says, “Daddy once told me…that rage is activated.” (193)
Also, Black Lives Matter, started by and for the Afro-Americans, is one of the most influential social movements of the post-civil rights era. It was formed on July 13, 2013, by three women – Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi- as “…a tool to reimagine the world where black people are free to exist, free to live.” (Garza et al., “An Interview with the Founders of Black Lives Matter”) The movement goes against the idea of racism and violence upon blacks in America. It was started after a 17-year-old unarmed boy, Trayvon Martin, was shot to death by George Zimmerman, a Florida neighborhood watch captain, who was not held accountable for the crime he committed. The movement fights for a fundamental reordering of society where Black lives are free from systematic dehumanization. Protests are held against the various issues of police brutality and violence against blacks. The movement also has been featured in albums like the famous singer Beyoncé’s Lemonade in which the song Forward features the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner holding their late sons’ photographs. Also, a documentary film about the movement, named Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement, starring Jesse Williams, was made in 2016.
Gordian knot, a famous knot whose name was taken up as a proverbial term for a big problem or an impossible task, that can be solved only by bold action, came from the story in which King Gordias, founder of the capital of Phrygia, tied an entangled knot and said that whoever loosened it would become the ruler of Asia. Alexander the Great cut through the knot with his sword. The Afro-Americans go through problems which is difficult to solve. it is like a Gordian Knot where each American treat the blacks without dignity and by dehumanizing them in public spaces.’ due to decades of segregation, the whites have better access to education, healthcare, food, and other necessities, whereas the institutionalized discrimination hindered black Americans’ economic development. Trump’s rule as well. “He has challenged Obama’s (the ex-Afro-American President) citizenship, called Mexicans rapists and criminals, proposed to ban all Muslims from entering the country, insisted on the need for “law and order,” argued that immigration was changing the “character” of the United States and openly courted white supremacists.” From this example, it is understood that the impact of slavery continues to manifest and white supremacy is still persistent in American society. Hence, it is very tough to remove this Gordian knot in America and it would take more years to get its knot untied.
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