Every moment of every day, we have to make a choice. Each of us will choose what we will allow into our lives. This decision affects what we do and what we say. There are many influences vying for our attention. Some of them are good, and some of them are bad. Yet in the end, the responsibility for how we act and what we say falls to each individual. Such were my thoughts as I read Angie Thomas’s book, The Hate U Give.
One of the points about the book that was extremely disturbing was the reference to Black Jesus. Besides the obvious fact that Jesus was a Jew, I found this to be heartbreaking. Too many times in history deities were created in man’s image because that made them easier to control. This also allowed the person creating his/her ideal deity off the hook from following what God/Jesus actually said and did. Jesus’s message never had anything to do with skin color. He also didn’t blend doctrines from made-man religions, such as the characters in the book do, to come up with Chrislam. Even more chilling was when Ms. Thomas blasphemously compared spray-painted signs reading “black-owned business” to the blood of the Lamb as a means by which the stores wouldn’t be burned during a riot.
Also disconcerting were the broad, sweeping generalizations Ms. Thomas made regarding white people. Through her story, we learn this is the very thing she scorns when it comes from white people. Yet the duplicity was overwhelming. Throughout the book, the protagonist, Starr, made gross assumptions about white people and police officers as if she could not only read their minds, but knew for a fact what they thought and believed. In her mind, that made it true. The sad fact was that Starr’s behavior and opinions were learned. The cycle of hatred was instilled in her life because of prejudiced statements she heard her father, Maverick, repeat.
Ms. Thomas would also have the reader believe that doing wrong is noble as long as it is for the right reason. The character Khalil lost his mother to drugs; he saw it destroy her life. This, however, was not enough to keep Khalil from selling drugs to other people in his own community. He had a job but walked away from it to sell drugs. Per Khalil, the money was for food and utilities. It was also for Jordan sneakers and gold chains. This reminded me that we are our brother’s keeper all the time. Not just after the fact. If the whole community could pull together to collect money for Khalil’s funeral, why couldn’t they pull together to buy food and pay for utilities?
The profanity in the book was appalling. Maybe that’s the way some people talk, but for a teenager, I found it to be inexcusable. It’s used so casually, and it doesn’t add anything to the story. Neither does the promiscuity portrayed, especially among the teenagers. I suspect Ms. Thomas would like for you to believe that everyone is doing it, so that makes it okay, but I disagree on both points.
The book promoted lawlessness and compared police officers who want to make a difference to slave owners. It endorsed disrespect for any authority figure of a different race and condoned violence and chaos as an acceptable response to disappointment and as an outlet for anger. It failed to address the problems within the community which are taking more lives than police officers, it denounced anyone who told the truth, and it threw morals and ethics to the wind. In short, the lessons to be learned are that different laws should apply to different people based on race and whatever feels good for you to do is what you should do regardless of the harm it may cause.
Diversity is good. I prefer to think of it as our individual uniqueness because what makes us unique goes far beyond skin color. When these differences are used to point the finger and lay blame, then they are being used for the wrong reasons. Instead of breathing life, this book spews death. It perpetuates hatred over love. It causes division instead of generating unity. It aims all this negativity at teenagers who are, despite their own beliefs, still children. I suspect this is done because teens are already a volatile mix of thoughts and emotions. They rarely take the time to research what they hear and see to determine whether or not it’s true. And without guidance, they may believe this one-sided story is true.
There are many more errors in The Hate U Give. I took six pages of notes, initially intending to refute all of them. Instead, I decided to break the cycle and speak peace.