Written by Wayne Townsend
Tupac Shakur, inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, becomes an indirect spokesperson for the major plot point of this film. One of his iconic pieces of body art was THUG LIFE, which is an acronym for The Hate U Give Little Infants F*&#’s Everyone. Thus, the title of this film adapted from the novel of the same name written by Angie Thomas. The book was debuted at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list and received several awards including Goodreads Choice for 2017. The story told through the eyes of Star, a 16-year old girl that attends an affluent high school and living a double life. In school, she’s a reserve, studious, honor roll awarded athlete who fits in well with her classmates that are predominately rich white kids. At home, she is a ‘homegirl’ who lives in a part of town that is populated by lower-middle-class African-Americans. Her neighborhood has a criminal element headed by a local drug dealer who recruits and employs young men who believe the only way out is the distribution of illegal pharmaceuticals. Star’s father, a former gang leader that has turned his life around by opening the local grocery store after doing a bid that included taking the rap for the leader of the said drug gang. He preaches the teachings of a code created and made popular by the Black Panthers to all three of his children until they can recite them rote. He also ensures that they know what to do if the police ever stop them. The balancing act needed to navigate these two opposite worlds keeps Star questioning almost everything she does as she slips seamlessly between them. Then what seems like the inevitable happens, Star finds herself the only witness of a fatal police shooting of an unarmed black youth during a traffic stop while he was driving Star home from a party. Star is torn between doing the “right thing” by testifying to what she saw and wanting to protect her standing in the neighborhood. She would have to reveal the youth was employed by the drug gang and violate the urban code that requires silence, never to reveal to everyone who lives outside the hood what actually goes on in the hood. This is an unnecessary subplot that almost sabotages the more significant social dilemma addressed by this movie, the treatment, (or mistreatment) of African-Americans by the police in our country.
This element is a plague on our society, and The Hate U Give is a realistic depiction of the challenges we face in trying to reconcile why these types of incidents seem to repeat weekly. The movie isn’t heavy-handed, as it attempts to show many angles of this incident. It doesn’t try to solve it; instead, it approaches it from the “this could be any black person in any town USA” and how everyone has an agenda. The press, the police, the students at Star’s school, even the drug gang all had a polarizing position. All seemed to forget about the actual victim of the shooting and tried to use it as a reason to, fill in the blank, raise awareness, conduct business as usual (both the police and the drug dealers), or the reason to avoid a math test. All accept Star, who as someone who not only witnessed the incident but someone who found herself in the middle, being exposed to every angle to this incident. Her unique position of being an active member of all these worlds that are on a collision course ignites her activism as thing don’t play out as she’d hoped they would. The most chilling aspect of The Hate U Give is the fact although everyone is appalled by the incident, there is a matter-of-factness that resonates among all the characters, Star included, that are reminiscent of any conversation had in real life whenever these incidents occur. Chillingly accurate, this film almost derails with the drug gang subplot that wraps with a Hollywood ending. The Hate U Give should be on everyone’s must-see list as it raises the question, “why” and goes about it realistically. I give it a 4 out of 5.