We can all agree that a policeman’s job is hard, right? We can also agree that it’s a policeman’s job, reinforced by their training, to remain levelheaded during chaotic circumstances in order to keep us safe, right? A lot of people have no chill, and we don’t want them to be the face of law and order. We only want Ice-T to be the face of law and order. (I previously wrote Ice Cube and my boyfriend had to correct me. In other news, I'm very white).
I think we can also agree that it’s a policeman’s duty to refrain from excessive force and definitely avoid using a lethal weapon at all costs, especially since officers have a bunch of other resources at their disposal. Lethal weapons, like guns, are...lethal. You can’t turn back time on those things. When an unarmed boy is violently confronted for “looking suspicious” and then he’s shot, that’s murder [Trayvon Martin]. When a man is pulled over, immediately tells the officer he has a weapon in the car, explicitly says that he is reaching for his license and registration (as asked) and not that weapon, and then he’s shot seven times, that’s murder [Philando Castile]. When a man suspected of illegally selling cigarettes is choked as he says, “I can’t breathe” 11 times, that’s murder [Eric Garner]. When you’re a woman partying with a group in a park and you get shot because the officer mistakes a cell phone for a gun, that’s murder [Rekia Boyd].
Like any given population, cops are not “bad”; but, there are poorly trained bad apples, and the consequence of those bad apples isn’t a terrible fruit salad, it’s murder.
I know that white people get shot by police too, but, put simply, that’s not what The Hate U Give* is about. The black community is understandably incensed by systemic racism, and they want change. They want accountability for police officers who wrong them. Is that so bad? Shouldn’t we all want to improve our communities? Shouldn’t we support a movement that fundamentally wants the world to be a safer place?
Angie Thomas started writing The Hate U Give after Oscar Grant was shot by a policeman while he was lying on his stomach, hands behind his back, and confirmed unarmed. The murder is depicted in the movie Fruitvale Station with my boy Michael B. Jordan.
In the book, Thomas creates a fictional situation that seems all too real. [Note: The next sentence is not a spoiler-- it’s on the back of the book] The main character, Starr Carter, witnesses firsthand the fatal shooting of her friend Khalil, who was unarmed, cooperative, nonprovocative, etc. (all the usual excuses people give are out the window). Cue community outrage. The novel does not condone violence, but it does give some perspective on how the frustration of oppression might lead to violence.
I expected to confront tough, racially charged topics in The Hate U Give. I did not expect a lesson in second chances. Through Starr, Thomas advocates for forgiving people...when they deserve it. She acknowledges that some people make mistakes that they can atone for over time. She also acknowledges that when people make irrecoverable mistakes that speak to the core of their character, and those mistakes are repeated and justified rather than repented, you can feel free to kick those knuckleheads out of your life. I think that’s excellent advice for adults and kids. The Hate U Give is marketed as “young adult” (am I in that age bracket still…?) but it’s certainly applicable to people of all ages. Thomas’ voice is unique, compelling, and funny. The Hate U Give receives 4 out of 5 camel humps.
*Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give. New York: Balzer + Bray, 2017. Print.