I grew up thinking that racism was dead.
I never saw it, I never experienced it, and I couldn’t for the life of me understand why anyone would view someone differently because of the color of their skin.
I believed this for a long time. Well into High School, in fact. I was one of those naïve white girls that would roll my eyes at allegations of racism. I didn’t understand how anyone could think that way, so I assumed that no one did.
It’s made me so sad to have that illusion ripped from me as I’ve grown older. To witness racism right in front of me. To see that maybe those allegations do have truth to them. To hear stories and reports of racism in the same schools I went to. How did I not see it before? How could I be so blind that I didn’t see what these poor people were going through at the hands of ignorant, racist, cruel individuals?
I’m now doing what I can to remedy my ignorance. I’ve made it a personal goal of mine to stop judging and start listening when it comes to issues of race, because since I haven’t experienced it, I know that I don’t understand. I have no idea what it’s like, because that is simply not my reality.
The Hate U Give has been loosely on my TBR list for a while. I didn’t look into the plot, I just knew it was getting some acclaim, so I should probably read it at some point so that I can keep up on the current literary trends. I didn’t plan on reading it any time soon. But then I saw the trailer for the movie, and I knew that this was something I needed to read as part of my efforts to better understand the race tension going on in our country right now, so I moved the book to the top of my list.
I’m so glad I did.
Although I will never understand what it’s like to live as a different race, this book has made so many things clearer to me. It showed me what it’s like to live somewhere where you’re afraid to go outside because of the gangs and drugs. It showed me what it’s like to live in constant fear of being attacked verbally or physically just because of the color of your skin. It even showed the tension that can come from being torn between loyalty to the people you know and relate with the most and the chance at a better life.
I’ve often been guilty of thinking that many people of color are too sensitive when it comes to perceived racism. After all, some people are just rude regardless of who they’re talking to. Or people make comments without thinking through how they might be perceived. I’ve even been guilty of thinking that all the reports of racist police brutality were exaggerated. After all, a cop is going to shoot anyone that they perceive as a threat, regardless of their color.
The Hate U Give does a wonderful job of addressing all these things. It shows, in an authentic first-person perspective, just how hurtful some of those comments can be, even when they’re not meant that way. It shows that
Perhaps what made me the angriest about this story is all the lengths the police went to as they tried to justify the shooting. The way they investigated the victim’s life to see if he was part of a gang or if he sold drugs, even though that had nothing to do with the night he was shot, where he was unarmed and had nothing dangerous in his car. Or maybe the way the cop held a gun to the witness until backup arrived. The unarmed, sixteen-year-old black girl who had just watched her best friend die.
The whole story was so raw and authentic that I had a hard time pulling myself back into my life afterwards. I had to tell myself that it was just a story, that it didn’t really happen, but then I realized. It did happen. Sure, not this exact story with these exact characters in this exact scenario, but there have been individuals with lives and families that have been killed because they were perceived as a threat. And they were perceived as a threat at least partially because of the color of their skin.
So I’d like to say thank you to Angie Thomas and other authors like her, even though she’ll most likely never read this little review. Thank you for taking the time to help me understand. And I’m sorry I didn’t get it sooner. I promise to try and be better. I promise to listen when you’re trying with everything you have to speak out. And I promise to never second-guess your emotions and your reactions again. Because now I know that even if I don’t see something as racist or hurtful, your reality is different than mine, but that doesn’t make it any less real.
Recommend: YA-Adult readers interested in race relations or better understanding racism in the US
Cleanliness: This is a very authentic story about a sixteen-year-old girl growing up in the ghetto. That being said, there’s a lot of stuff in it. The worst is the language. It’s on every page and pretty much covers the entire spectrum of profanity. There’s also a couple of pretty detailed almost sex scenes, as well as quite a bit of violence and references to drugs and alcohol.