THE HATE U GIVE
by Angie Thomas. Balzer and Bray, A Division of Harper/Collins Publisher, New York, 2017.
The Hate You Give, a work of first fiction by a young Black writer, is a tome of propaganda for fellow ideologues and prospective converts for use in the real world. Construed as a novel for young adults, it is a call to – literally — riotous action in the name of the likes of Black Lives Matter.
The central theme of the book is probably this from Black protagonist Starr Carter, “They gave me the hate, and now I wanna fuck everybody, even if I’m not sure how.” [p. 359]
Introduction #1. The story behind The Hate You Give is that a white New York agent, Brooks Sherman, was searching for a decent script to publish about “the social justice movement” (and make some serious money in an appeal to the widespread popularity of enforced white guilt). To her astounding good fortune, a young, unpublished black author, Angie Thomas, just happened to send out a series of queries to agents, including Sherman, asking if they’d be interested in a novel focused on the themes of Black Lives Matter (i.e., the Mass Media theme of the day: racist cops kill blacks for no reason, which is an enduring expression of a totalitarian white racism, and all decent people must stand in solidarity against the scourge of undying white bigotry]. According to Thomas, Sherman told her that “For me, no subject should be off-limits in children’s books.”
Who did Angie Thomas envision as the audience for her book? The context is Trayvon Martin, a young black man who was killed by George Zimmerman (of Hispanic and white heritage). As Thomas framed it:
“When I saw Trayvon Martin’s friend being ridiculed for presenting herself in a certain way on the witness stand, I thought, ‘Oh, wow, why weren’t people celebrating her?’ I was like her – I wanted to write this book for girls like her.” [Emphasis added]
Trayvon Martin’s friend was Rachel Jeantel. As even a black news source (The Atlanta Black Star) noted about this young woman:
“[There is] a debate about the language used by the 19-year old Jeantel, her disrespectful attitude toward the defense, her inarticulateness and seeming lack of intelligence. It is a fascinating instance of black youth culture, with its language and attitudes, splashed across a national stage as it collides with the protocol of the criminal justice system.”
Jeantel became famous for her portrayal of Martin’s killer (whose parents were Hispanic and white) as a “creepy-ass cracker” and even a “nigga.”
It has already been suggested that The Hate U Give “might replace To Kill a Mockingbird as the seminal YA text about racism in America.”
Donna Bray, head of HarperCollins’ Balzer + Bray series, won the unusual bidding war between 13 major book publishers – including the largest five — to print the book. (See her Twitter account). Bray’s commitment to the thesis of Black Lives Matter and an attendant Fake News is apparently legions deep.
Symptomatic of the entire premises of The Hate U Give plot and the foundation of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the publishing industry’s support of such myths, on January 1, 2019 The Hate U Give publisher Donna Bray retweeted the following “news item” at her Twitter account, including a link to a video of African-American mother Jazmine Barnes. The Twitter text stated that
“The mother of #JazmineBarnes on the fatal shooting of her 7-year old daughter. Killer pulled up to the family in his red truck and fired shots directly into their car. Jazmine died at the scene. Murderer is a white male, 40s and is still at large.” [Emphasis added]
Two months later, on February 25, 2019 (I haven’t checked since) this alert still existed on Bray’s Twitter account, although as early as January 7 CNN, among others, had already reported that two suspects had been arrested for the girl’s murder. Both of them were African-American. Clearly, Bray clocked in with her support of inner city legends and saw no reason to take her racial false flag down.
Introduction #2. Years ago, I was a naive incoming freshman at a Midwestern university where all students were required to take a series of “American Thought and Language” classes, reading the perspectives of Old Dead White Guys like Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson – and, in poignant antithesis, Eldridge Cleaver. Eldridge Cleaver? Cleaver’s book, Soul on Ice, our required study, was one of THE embittered African-American texts of the burgeoning politically correct era, echoing the rage of the still-enduring Malcolm X. Cleaver had powerful credibility as a “minister” in the Black Panther Party and his livid vison was hallowed by The Nation, The Atlantic Monthly, and other liberal gatekeepers of popular culture. Cleaver was also a convicted serial rapist. As this paragon of political virtue proclaimed in his eye-opening creed:
“I became a rapist. To refine my technique and modus operandi, I started out by practicing on black girls in the ghetto … and when I considered myself smooth enough, I crossed the tracks and sought out white prey. I did this consciously, deliberately, willfully, methodically … Rape was an insurrectionary act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man’s law, upon his system of values, and that I was defiling his women … I know that if I had not been apprehended I would have slit some white throats.” [CLEAVER, p. 14]
This noteworthy perspective of an articulate underclass hero was, of course, rooted in black rage and abject hatred of (all) white people for declared collective, historical sins against the black community. But Cleaver’s furious vision of white oppression wilted considerably over the years and the book I was forced to read in college (and respond to approvingly for a reasonable grade) isn’t often cited as an authentic example of the black experience under white oppression anymore. In fact, amidst later bouts with cocaine addiction, Cleaver fled the dreaded “white man’s law” for the Marxist anti-colonialist regimes of Algeria and Cuba. These expatriate experiences certainly contributed to him in later life gaining broader political (and moral) perspective. He eventually returned to America, became a Republican (!), lived a life as a Mormon in good standing, supported Ronald Reagan, and was a vocal advocate for the reinstatement of the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance at the notoriously liberal Berkeley (CA) City Council meetings.
Academia once propagandized me to accept Soul on Ice as a reasonable – and necessary – alternative interpretation of American society. Given Cleaver’s own political evolution, today his real-life memoir reads like fiction. So, ultimately, in retrospect, was my required reading a waste of even Cleaver’s time?
All of which brings us, today, to another such popularly enforced literature landmark of the black experience in America. This one may or may not be required reading in middle schools around the country (it is on “recommended reading” lists all over), but the target for political socialization is even a younger audience. After all, it’s a Young Adult novel: The Hate U Give (yes, now a Hollywood movie), by African-American first-time author Angie Thomas. And both this book and its filmic spawn are relentlessly praised throughout white-guilt pop media culture: despite being fiction, Thomas’ novel is heralded as another authentic black voice addressing (alleged) endemic white racism in America. The ardently left-wing American Library Association has even sanctioned it — twice — with its “William C. Morris Debut Award” for first-time authors, and it’s “Prinz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.” Among a host of other school accolades, The Hate U Give became Hamilton County [TN] School’s “Book of the Week.” And on and on.
Two current anti-white ideologies undergird the shape of this overtly propagandizing novel: one is the fervently anti-cop Black Lives Matter movement (Thomas: “I wrote this from a perspective of a 16-year-old girl, so I felt like I had a better chance of reaching people who may take issue with the phrase ‘black lives matter.’”) The second is the world view of a violent and misogynist real-life rap star, Tupac Shakur. The very title of the book, The Hate U Give, actually originates from Shakur, who is the undergirding moral godfather of the entire story. Shakur was a member of a rap group called THUG LIFE, his acronym for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody” (the last part of the book’s implicit title was dropped by the agent/publisher realm for fear that the curse word could impact sales). THUG LIFE (a term Shakur had tattooed across his stomach), we find online, “especially in black hip-hop culture … refers to a determined and resilient attitude to succeed in life in spite of racism and injustice.” Hence, this central theme of the book is brought to America’s vulnerable school children through the accusatory lens of miscreant rapper Shakur.
“When we were trying to figure out a title for the book,” says author Thomas, “I came across a YouTube clip of [Shakur] discussing THUG LIFE … When I saw him explain what it means, it hit me that’s not just in my book, but that’s what we see in society. When these unarmed black people lose their lives, the hate they’ve been given screws us all. We see it in the form of anger and wee it in the form of riots. So when I saw that in the video, it was like a sign.”
And who, by generic unidimensional default, is accused to “give” “hate” in so many directions that screws up the lives of “everybody”? The usual white people scapegoat and their (im)moral universe, of course. The black community – and virtually every other socio-ethnic group beneath the indicted omnipotent weight of White Racism – gets a categorical pass for their own crimes of bigotry and dismissal of individual responsibility.
Aside from the title, Shakur is referenced positively multiple times in the novel [p. 17, 167, 168, 204, 205], including a loving explanation of the THUG LIFE acronym by the protagonist’s father.
But who exactly was the real–life Shakur? Who is this man whose words form the very foundation of an influential young adult novel? He was convicted for both attacking a fellow rapper with a baseball bat and, in a different case, of physically assaulting a music producer. Like Eldridge Cleaver, the hero of this novel also served prison time in 1993 for the rape (an alleged gang attack) of a black woman, Ayanna Jackson. In a presumed world of omnipresent African-American poverty and hopelessness against the “system,” a black entrepreneur at Death Row Records, Suge Knight, paid over a million dollars to bail Shakur out of jail. The rap star was subsequently murdered by a Compton (CA) gang member to avenge a beating Shakur was involved in earlier. (Another original member of Shakur’s THUG LIFE rap group also was murdered in a separate gang-related incident).
And what is Shakur’s moral message to his fans, the spine for The Hate U Give, as expressed in his music lyrics? How about his tender love of women?
“I’m fucking the sluts and hoes
The bigger the butts the tighter the clothes
The gimminy jiminy grows
Then whaddaya know, it’s off with some clothes
Rowd when the crowd says ho
That let’s me know, they know I can flow
Love when they come to my shows
I get up and go with skins before
When I’m collecting my dough
I never respect, the one that I back
The quicker the nigga can rap
The bigger the check …”
[from Young Black Male]
Or his respect for codes of civility and other human beings:
“As I was beatin’ on a cop, I heard a gun click [uh-oh]
Then the gun shot, but I wasn’t hit
I turned around it was my homie with my gun in hand
He shot the cop (damn!). Now he’s a dead man
I said, come on. It’s time for us to get away
(Let’s go, we gotta get the fuck outta here) …
We drove a little ways thinkin’ that we got far
But I looked up and all I saw was blue lights
(that’s a lotta of one time
If I die tonight, I’m dying in a gunfight
I grabbed the AK, my homie took the 12 gauge
(yeah, it’s on now)
Load ‘em up quick, it’s time for us to spray
We’ll shoot ‘em up with they own fuckin’ weapons
And when we through sprayin’ then we steppin’
This is a lesson to the rednecks and crooked cops
You fuck with real niggas, get ya fuckin’ ass dropped
So here we go, the police against us
Dark as dusk, waitin’ for the guns to bust
(What’s next, man?) What’s next? I don’t know and I don’t care
One thing fo’ sho’, tomorrow I won’t be here
But if I go, I’m takin’ all these punks with me
(Pas me a clip) Pass me a clip, G, now come and get me
You wanna sweat me, never get me to be silent
Givin’ them a reason to claim that I’m violent
“They’re claimin’ that I’m violent.”
“Fuck the damn cop!”
“Just because we play what the people want.”
In “Crooked Ass Nigga,” Tupac celebrates the murder of fellow black man — AND the police:
“A smoking-ass nigger robbed me blind
I got a TEC-9 now his smokin’ ass is mine…
Catch him on the streets, I’mma bring him to his feet, quick
Pass the clip, I think I see him comin’ now
Fuck the bullshit, posse deep and let’s run him down …
Now back to the smoker that robbed me
I tell you like Latifah, motherfucker give me body
One to the chest, another to his fuckin’ dome
Now the shit can rest, you tell him to leave me the fuck alone
Tow very bloody bodies on the streets
A nosey ass cop and a nigga that robbed from me …”
Shakur was prolific and is celebrated as an exemplary “thug” in significant parts of today’s black youth culture — and beyond. This book alone helps his heroic legend spread. There is plenty more in his repertoire that heralds violent and misogynist themes, but the author of The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas, sees something elusively noble beyond Tupac’s disturbing lyrics:
“If you had to put The Hate U Give [book] into any person’s hands,” an interviewer once asked Thomas, as she basked in new-found fame and attention, “who would it be?” Tupac, she responded, “He influenced so much of this book. He opened my eyes to many things. He inspired me as a young black woman to keep going. I would want to give it to him, as a way to say thank you.”
The Hate U Give is fundamentally a black versus white morality play, told from the biases of a 16-year old black girl living in an urban ghetto, a protagonist who struggles to straddle both black and white worlds (she goes to school in an affluent white neighborhood and has a stereotypically rich white boyfriend, Chris. (This white character is so rich that, as Starr says, “he has an entire floor as big as my house and hired help that looks like me.” [p. 80-81] and, for the high school prom, Starr ends up with him in a rented Rolls Royce. [p. 293, 301] Poor whites are nonexistent in this black protagonist’s view of the world despite the fact that, in real life, there are more children in poverty who are white than any other racial group). The evil antagonist is “white racism,” especially as manifest by the (alleged) systemic police murder of innocent black victims. Crucially, this novel departs the realm of fiction in its final pages, wherein its call to social activism (on behalf of a list of controversial real-life victims of police shootings) underscores the entire thrust of the plot towards its denouement as blatantly political propaganda: Children readers, whoever you are, this really isn’t fiction: join the oppressed black community with Black Lives Matter in the real war against the hated cops and endemic white racism.
Although The Hate U Give’s ultimate “social activist” aim is very much rooted in real life, it is fiction in both a literal and figurative sense. The tale is founded on broad stereotypes, anti-white bigotry, and the “fake news” narrative of Black Lives Matter’s anti-police movement (an enduring product of today’s leftist mass media that enables the relentless myth of an omnipresent, undying white racism). After all, as it is pounded into us these days, and as this novel’s protagonist proclaims: “over and over again: a black person gets killed just for being black.” [p. 34] Inundated from floor to ceiling with the rhetoric of Black Lives Matter throughout popular culture, who in their right mind can deny the omnipresence of such widespread genocidal racism?
The main character of Hate U is Starr Carter, a 16-year old black schoolgirl who lives in an African-American urban ghetto, but commutes to an affluent suburban school that is dominantly white. Her struggle involves straddling these different worlds, but the novel is rooted in a horrible incident: leaving a party (where a marijuana “haze lingers over the room”) [p. 3], Starr is in a car with her unarmed friend, Khalil, who, hostile, insolent and uncooperative, [p. 21-23] is shot and killed by a white policeman. (The cop is entirely dehumanized in the novel as “Officer 115” [p. 26, p. 47, p. 105, p. 170, p. 211, p. 218, p. 289, p. 290], until his name is spoken by the protagonist near the end of the story) [p. 412]. Starr finally declares through a bullhorn at a rally that “Officer Cruise is the criminal,” the cop who said he thought a hairbrush a defiant Khalil handled was a gun.
After his death, Starr is disappointed to learn that Khalil was a drug dealer but, although neighborhood gang members show up at his funeral, she is relieved to be reassured by another acquaintance that he was never formally part of that criminal group. Starr rationalizes Khalil’s drug dealing away: after all, his mother was a drug addict who stole $5,000 from a local gang leader [ p. 287], so Khalil hustled drugs to get cash to help his mom fend off avenging gang intentions. Hence, he was, in such a moral universe, trapped in evil. (One wonders if Starr – and the book’s author – would likewise afford this excuse for Khalil even if he committed murder – or multiple murders — on the mother’s behalf, and why drug dealing isn’t here considered a parallel destruction of other human beings — in Khalil’s case, a predation upon mostly black purchasers).
Hence, here we face a foundational Hate U premise: individual actions (i.e., drug dealing, riots, gang crime, etc.) are not really the perpetrator’s own fault. Blame is collectively displaced and held to be situational, i.e., an individual is not really responsible for his or her own moral decision making. No one really chooses to do anything; they are cornered into bad actions to survive. Hence, the actual culprit of Khalil’s drug dealing is the resulting stranglehold of White Racism, of which all blacks are entirely imprisoned (an endless cycle of Shakur’s notion of white “hate” that “fucks everybody.”) Starr states this world view plainly: “Khalil was forced to sell drugs.” [p. 288] The same way, one wonders, his mom was forced to take them?
In surveying the drug deluge that poisons Starr’s urban neighborhood, her father pontificates against the (white racism) “system” that perpetuates drug addiction in the black community:
“That’s the hate they’ve given us, baby, a system designed against us. That’s Thug Life.”
Starr momentarily objects to her father: “I hear you, but Khalid didn’t HAVE to sell drugs. You stopped doing it.”
“True,” replies her father, “but unless you’re in his shoes, don’t judge him.” [p. 169]
So how widespread is the drug dealing “system” in Hate U’s black community? Not only was Khalil a drug dealer, but so was Starr’s father during his own gang banging days. Beyond that, even Starr’s grandfather “was the biggest drug dealer the city has ever seen.” [p. 174] Nonetheless, however an outside observer might start to assess this familial tradition, the reader is emphatically scolded: “don’t judge them … They need money.” [p. 169] After all, in the web of White Racism, a different set of (survivalist) values is decreed to exist in the African-American community and an ancestral lineage of drug dealers can only be, categorically, innocent of individual decision-making. (Meanwhile, despite Starr’s father decrying the “lack of opportunities” [p. 169] for blacks in our ardently racist society, this novel features Starr’s father who dropped drug-dealing and owns a store, an uncle who is a police detective, an aunt who is an attorney, and Starr’s own mother who lands a six-figure plus salary in the medical profession. Also, Starr herself revels in the fact that, because of her political activism, “a millionaire, who wishes to remain anonymous, offered to pay my college tuition.”) [p. 308]
With the injustice of Khalil’s death, Starr becomes hyper-sensitive to the white racism and bigotry that pervades her life; she increasingly gravitates towards political activism and a deeper animus towards white people (with the important exception of those who try to act black). This includes a celebration of violence against them. Starr’s souring friendship with a white fellow student, Hailey, is the trigger for her swelling alienation. Hailey is depicted as The Generic White Bigot. After all, she didn’t spend a night at Starr’s home because her father “didn’t want her spending the night in the ‘ghetto.’” [p. 36] (Unreasonable? Meanwhile, even Starr’s parents eventually move out of the ghetto.) Hailey is further highlighted as a bigot when she is sympathetic to news stories about how the shooting of Starr’s friend Khalil negatively impacted the policeman who shot him. (Hailey dares to verbalize a Black Lives Matter taboo: “What’s wrong with saying his life matter too?” [p. 248] Starr’s response is a desire “to do something really stupid. Like punch her.” [p. 248] ) Hailey even dares to dislike an online posting Starr has about “Black Panthers who were shot by the government.” [p. 250]
Later, worse, Hailey has the audacity to joke to Starr, during a basketball scrimmage: “Hustle. Pretend the ball is some fried chicken. But you’ll stay on it then.” [p. 111] Accused of racism, Hailey defends herself by noting that “It’s fried chicken day” at the school and Starr and an Asian-American student, Maya, “were just joking about it.” [p. 112] Starr remains enraged at the comment. However incongruous, author Angela Thomas still sees fit to bait the reader with the following, only fifteen pages later, wherein at Khalil’s funeral
“A praise break even starts, and people run around the sanctuary and do the ‘Holy Ghost Two-Step,’ as Seven and I call it, their feet moving like James Brown and their bent arms flapping like chicken wings.” [p. 127]
Like chicken wings? Is Thomas serious? Her anti-racist vigilance so quickly evaporates? Is the author herself so steeped in the inundation of white slanders that she doesn’t see any problem with depicting a hall-full of black arms “flapping like chicken wings” to be a descriptive problem, especially since the reader is hyper-attentive to the protagonist’s explosion of rage over fried chicken jokes just a dozen pages earlier?
Hailey gets more Starr abuse. Teenage Hailey also made the grievous taboo of responding negatively to Starr’s Tumblr posting of a graphic image of the murder and mutilation of Emmet Till, a young black who was accused of whistling at a white woman in 1955. For a middle school kid, is it a gross picture, or is it an obligatory icon of modern black identity – AND requisite white guilt? The perceptual rift between Hailey and Starr widens. “Maybe things have changed,” muses Starr, “or maybe I have changed.” [p. 77, 78]
Hailey also infuriates Starr with her disinterest in protesting — at their mostly white school — a drug dealer’s death, i.e., Khalil’s. [p. 183] To Starr, such growing strains in her relationship with white friend Hailey finally breaks the bond, and here is the classic white/black gulf in communication and understanding. For Starr, the black perspective of universal white “racism” is absolute and there is no negotiation. Despite an emailed reconciliatory “apology” from Hailey (about the fact that the cop who killed Khalil was acquitted in court and that she’s sorry “you’re upset with me”), Starr decides that Hailey isn’t a friend anymore, but merely, along racial lines, a white nemesis, i.e., a formerly latent, now overt, racist. Her white friend, decides Starr, will never “see how wrong she was” and “it makes her a shitty-ass person.” [p. 433]
The culmination of Starr’s deteriorating relationship with Hailey is a fist fight, initiated by the image Starr seeks to avoid to the white public: the “angry black girl.” [p. 71, 340] This altercation with Hailey is bedrock to the Hate U story. (Who really “hates” who?) The trouble begins when Hailey infers that Khalil, as a drug dealer, got what he deserved:
“He was drug dealer and a gangbanger. Somebody was going to kill him eventually … Um, yeah? Isn’t that what I said”? The cop probably did everyone a favor. One less drug dealer on the …” [p. 341]
Starr immediately responds with violence and delight in Hailey’s resulting humiliation:
“I move Maya out of the way and slam my fist against the side of Hailey’s face. It hurts, but damn it feels good … I push her off, and she hits the floor. Her skirt goes up, and her pink drawers are out for everybody to see. Laughter erupts around us. Some people have their phones out.” [p. 341]
A Starr relative, named Seven, likewise joins the fray, attacking Hailey’s brother: “Seven throws blows like nobody’s business.” [p. 342] The beaten Hailey character is later fully bloated as the Powerful White Oppressor when we learn that her father is a school board member who argues that Starr and Seven should be expelled “because we started it.” [p. 342]
In its moral construction, Hate U champions the stereotype of violent blacks and celebrates vicious attacks upon disagreeable whites as justifiable, wherein a difference in opinion, or a verdict in a court of law, is conjured as irrefutable “racism.” Indeed, black violence is fundamental to this story and is routinely explained away as a righteous imperative (at least when it is black on white violence). Even Starr’s uncle, a police detective, physically attacks the white policeman who killed Khalil, [p. 247, 256] despite the fact that the officer is eventually acquitted of wrongdoing after investigation and trial. (Of course, that verdict can’t be accepted by the ideological premises of Hate U because, by definition, the white man’s legal system is routinely racist, rife with bias and injustice. Hence, the go-to response: black rioting to bend the Evil White Man’s legal system to mob rule).
Although Starr’s parents abstractly disapprove of Starr’s attack on Hailey, she is excused for her violence, because — from this novel’s black moral superiority versus white moral inferiority paradigm – Starr’s rage is clearly understandable. As Starr happily recounts:
“If you can translate Parentish, this is what they really said [about Starr’s beating of Hailey]: Momma: I don’t condone what you did and I’m not saying it’s OK, but I probably would’ve done it too. [To father] What about you, baby?” Daddy: Hell yeah, I would’ve.”
Starr: “I love them for that.” [p. 349]
In these violent anti-white incidents (emanating from differing racial perspectives,) and their routine acceptance, what message is underscored to young people who read this novel?
Black violence (stereotypical or otherwise) is a fundamental theme here (all implicitly blamed on the “hate” that whites “give.”) As in real life, most of such havoc is perpetrated against fellow African-Americans, and even Starr’s family seeks to move from their ghetto home to escape it. Hate U violence in the black community is expressed throughout the book, through riots, murders, domestic abuse, robbery, and other expressions — for example, Starr’s existential wail: “I wanna fight every person I pass” [p. 183] and a man from India who gets bloodied by black rioting. (p. 137. See also, for example: p. 6, 15, 17, 28, 30, 36, 39, 44, 45, 47, 51, 136, 140, 145, 200, 218, 220, 317, 342, 346, 348, 359, 389, 424, 440). Other forms of “violence” include this novel’s recitation of some form of “fuck” 89 times, aimed perhaps at “flipping off” [p. 14] conservative parents and releasing their cloistered kids to an alternative, widely celebrated world of hostile vulgarity.
A prominent sub-theme of this book, an undercurrent that roars to the fore at the end, is its encouragement of young impressionable readers to become activists in fighting a (here decreed) nationally racist police force, and “white racism” generally. Starr is even encouraged by a black lawyer to pursue a “future in activism.” [p. 432] “We can’t be silent,” the protagonist proclaims. [p. 171] Starr even recognizes a useful – albeit manipulative — tool to inflate protests at her (white) school about the evils of white racism:
“They [white students] act like I’m the official representative of the black race and they owe me an explanation. I think I understand though. If I sit out a protest, I’m making a statement, but if they sit out a protest they look racist.” [p. 394]
Of course. If a white individual doesn’t join the anti-white ideological steamroller, they are, by dictatorial default, labelled a “racist.”
The novel even outlines an “oppressed” “alliance” against mainstream society, the “system” that is of course all good people’s archrival: white culture, and those who cling to it. In macrocosm, the Evil that must be fought is a society that murders blacks for no reason. In microcosm, the alliance is against the likes of Evil White Hailey. As Starr decides, “There’s Them and then there’s Us. Sometimes they look like Us and don’t realize they are Us.” [p. 343] Of course this references any African-American not on board with the Black Lives Matter political platform of racial hostility and its own “hatred” of “Them.” Furthering the Them Versus Us paradigm, Starr apparently abandons any moral decorum when she proclaims that “They don’t give a fuck about us, so fine, I no longer give a fuck.” [p. 390]
In this context, one of Starr’s best friends at the Mostly White School is Maya, who is of Chinese descent (never mind that, in real-life, Asian-Americans at the top tier in economic and educational accomplishment, outpacing a presumed white stranglehold on everything Beautiful). In the wake of Starr’s growing animosity to the Evil White Bigot, Hailey, Starr and Maya declare a “minority alliance” against mainstream culture. [p. 252] This is an important subtheme on the anti-white plot line. This “minority alliance” is renewed three times later in the volume: “Hey. We minorities have to stick together, remember?” [p. 295] and “Minority alliance activated.” [p. 252] The most curious Minority Alliance championing surfaces thusly:
“’I told Starr we minorities gotta stick together,’ Maya says.
‘So true,’ says Kenya [one of Starr’s black friends]. ‘White people been sticking together forever.’” [p. 359]
This is an especially problematic assertion when the author of this novel presents a polar opposite perspective later in the novel. On one hand, Starr rages at Hailey’s stereotypical closure of blacks and fried chicken. On the other hand, in the midst of Starr and some of her black friends (and Chris, her white boyfriend) hypocritically heralds inane stereotypes about generic “white people.” In this context, the value of black political activism is championed against a nemesis that is not unified in defending its own cause (not “sticking together,”) i.e., thank goodness white culture’s individuals are so atomized that they celebrate the rugged individualist and not the political collectivism of identity politics:
“’Fucking breadcrumbs,” DeVante still can’t get over it. “I swear, I don’t understand white people. Breadcrumbs on macaroni, kissing dogs on the mouth …’
‘Treating their dogs like they’re their kids,’ I add.
‘Yeah!’ says DeVante. ‘Purposely doing shit that could kill them, like bungee jumping.’
‘Calling Target ‘Tar-jay,’ like that makes it fancier,’ says Seven.
‘Fuck,’ Chris mutters. ‘That’s what my mom calls it.’
Seven and I burst out laughing.
‘Saying dumb shit to their parents,’ DeVante continues. ‘Splitting up in situations when they clearly need to stick together.’ [EMPHASIS ADDED]
Chris goes, ‘Huh?’
‘Babe, c’mon,’ I say. ‘White people always wanna split up, and when they do something bad happens …’
‘Like, have y’all ever heard that there’s power in numbers?’ DeVante asks. ‘For real though.’ [p. 400]
One of these black “power in numbers” advantages is the unity of black rage, especially per the value of rioting. “They don’t listen,” declares Starr, “till we tear something up.” [p. 390] Seven seeks Starr’s sanction to join a riot [p. 389] and she soon becomes an iconic revolutionary heroine – Social Activist Deluxe — when a front page newspaper photograph captures her throwing a tear gas canister back at police. [p. 435]
As Starr elsewhere observes,
“People say misery loves company, but I think it’s like that with anger too. I’m not the only one pissed [about friend Khalil’s death] – everyone around me is. They didn’t have to be sitting in the passenger’s seat when it happened. My anger is theirs, and theirs is mine.” [p. 393]
Starr earlier addressed a similar theme of undying black hatred that fuels modern African-American identity:
“Daddy told me there’s a rage passed down to every black man from his ancestors, born the moment they couldn’t stop the slave masters from hurting their families.” [p. 196]
Does this eternally generational rage, one wonders, also extend to the slaves’ black captors who dragged them originally into submission, as was inter-tribal tradition on the African continent? Or, insofar as my own white ancestry – dominantly coal miners and working class survivors in comparatively recent history– never had slaves, might the author of this novel be the real one that deserves indictment? Might she be related to one of the 3,776 American black slave owners in the early 19th century? Or might Angie Thomas’ distant ancestors have enslaved my own ancestors, as over a million Europeans once were, by Arab and African slave masters? [Davis, p. 23] And if I declare rage upon her and her collective (albeit possibly veiled) black “guilt,” what are the real truths between generic blacks and whites in the semantic shell games of “hate” and “rage?”
Hate U even champions Eldridge Cleaver’s violent Black Panther world that “empowered the people.” [p. 168] Starr’s father, a former gang member and prison veteran, still “follows the Black Panther’s Ten-Point Programs more than the Ten Commandments.” [p. 31]
Starr sometimes wonders how a poor black girl like her is hooked up with a rich white kid, [p. 83, 105] but one of the key reasons illuminated throughout the novel is that he “tries to act black,” as do other non-black characters in the novel. As propagandized throughout pop culture, African-Americans are worshipped on a golden pedestal (Note, for instance, the so-called “Magical Negro” phenomenon so widespread in Hollywood. Being black is “cool,” being white is a bummer. Starr’s black identity is automatically “cool” to the white student body: “I’m cool by default because I’m one of the only black kids there [at her school.]” [p. 11] and “Like I said, at Williamson I’m cool by default because I’m black … White people assume all black people are experts on trends and shit.” [p. 293] (Starr’s Chinese-American friend, Maya, even has a black boyfriend [p. 72, 105] who is the only other African-American at Starr’s suburban school. Maya is also noted for having a Michael Jordan poster on her wall). [p. 242]
Chris’ acceptance of the concept of “white guilt” [p. 231] is also appreciated as is his love of a black-based TV series called Fresh Prince: “Chris gets Fresh Prince,” says Starr, “which helps him get me.” [p. 83] He also wears sacred black basketball icon Michael Jordan’s sneakers (Star: “Shoot, that makes Chris finer for some reason. Or I have a Jordan fetish.” [p. 227] “Please!” earlier observes DeVante, one of Starr’s black friends. “Dude [Chris is] wearing J’s. White boys wearing Converse and vans, not no J’s unless they trying to be black.” [p. 235]
Despite being rich and white, Chris is agreeable to renounce – and belittle — his whiteness to bask in the lure of an honorary blackness:
“’Wait, wait,” Seven says over our laughter, ‘we gotta test him to see if he really is black. Chris, you eat green bean casserole?’
‘Hell no. That’s disgusting.’
The rest of us lose it, saying: “He’s black! He’s black!’” [p. 398]
There are, of course, limits to celebrating, and emulating, blackness. Although Chris is able to dutifully mumble the lyrics to a beloved rapper’s song, the boy drops his mimicry each time the word “nigga” comes up, “as,” polices Starr, “he should.” [p. 394] (Conversely, his memorized recital of rap group NWA’s songs endears him to Starr’s father) [p. 398] Likewise, whites are at her school are forbidden to refer to Starr’s urban home as a “ghetto,” although, as Starr observes, “Garden Heights is the ghetto, so it wouldn’t be a lie … I can call Garden Heights the ghetto all I want. Nobody else can.” [p. 139] (As is her precedent, would she physically attack a white individual, one wonders, if this reference was casually uttered by a person who ignored such censorship?)
In essence, The Hate You Give is a manual justifying “social justice” rioting – a blueprint, even — and a treatise about how whites should deferentially act around Black individuals. In its last pages, it departs from fiction, listing real life Black martyrs against alleged systemic racism (in police departments and beyond), heralding an implicit invitation to join rioters, literally or figuratively, in ethical service to The Hate Your Give’s vision of social justice