“When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual birds and bees...The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me.”
This quotation expresses the pervasiveness of police violence and mistreatment of minorities. Even though the national stereotype is that police violence is committed against men, it’s evident that brutality at the hands of the police can affect women and girls at well. Furthermore, young age offers no protection from the mistreatment. Starr’s parents must talk to Starr about how to behave around police as a minority when she is just twelve years old. They have the talk with Sekani later, even though he is even younger. In addition, Starr’s thought process here, as she and Khalil are stopped by the violence, foreshadows the violence that is to follow.
“Fifteen minutes later, I leave the police station with my mom. Both of us know the same thing: This is gonna be some bullshit.”
The investigation that Starr participates in does not end up finding fault with Officer Cruise, even though the narrative Starr supplies clearly indicates that Cruise shot at Khalil when he was unarmed and had not threatened Cruise. In addition, the officers ask Starr questions about Khalil’s background, such as whether or not he was involved in selling narcotics. At the moment that this question is asked, Starr realizes that the investigation will not be fair or unbiased. Both Lisa and Starr understand that the investigation will fit into a larger narrative of leniency for police violence.
“Ho-ly shit, Starr! Seriously? After everything we’ve been through, you think I’m a racist? Really?”
Hailey and Starr’s friendship experiences many tensions and ultimately ends, in part because of Hailey’s insensitivity toward issues of race. Hailey refuses to grasp that people who are not intentionally racist can still say comments that are in fact racist, or at the very least culturally insensitive. Furthermore, Hailey refuses to engage in conversation with Hailey or Maya about why her remarks were offensive to them. She is blinded towards her own mistakes by defensiveness and a fear of being called a racist. While Maya, for example, listens to Starr and understands why her participation in the Williamson protest was offensive, Hailey refuses to accept Starr’s argument and gets angry instead.
“I want my kids to enjoy life! I get it, Maverick, you wanna help your people out. I do too. That’s why I bust my butt every day at that clinic. But moving out of the neighborhood won’t mean you’re not real and it won’t mean you can’t help this community. You need to figure out what’s more important, your family or Garden Heights. I’ve already made my choice.”
Lisa’s argument reflects the internal struggle that both Lisa and Maverick feel about their decision to move out of Garden Heights. On the one hand, they both want to help the other people in their community. Garden Heights is susceptible to poverty and violence, and because Lisa and Maverick have a strong family bond and serve as mentors to young people like DeVante, they want to remain in the neighborhood to continue this assistance. However, they’re aware of the dangers of Garden Heights. There are frequent drive-bys, such as the one that killed Natasha. As Lisa points out, it’s possible for Maverick to help the community even when he doesn’t live there. In addition, moving does not devalue Maverick’s commitment to helping others.
“DeVante. Khalil. Neither of them thought they had much of a choice. If I were them, I’m not sure I’d make a much better one.”
In the beginning of the novel, Starr was angry at Khalil for choosing to get involved in selling drugs. She didn't understand how he could enable the kind of destructive addiction that affected his mom so much. It takes the perspective of another self-described “thug,” DeVante, for Starr to understand what drove Khalil into the dangerous business. He was trying to protect his mother by helping her pay off a debt she had to King after stealing from him. With no other high-paying opportunities available to a young black man living in Garden Heights, Khalil felt forced to turn to drug dealing, just as DeVante felt forced towards the gangs to find a kind of family and sense of community. Here, Starr recounts how talking to Devante helped her realized the dilemma people in his position face, and to understand why they made the choice they did.
“But Ms. Ofrah said this interview is the way I fight. When you fight, you put yourself out there, not caring who you hurt or if you’ll get hurt. So I throw one more blow, right at One-Fifteen. ‘I’d ask him if he wished he shot me too.’”
Starr’s nationally televised interview is a pivotal moment in her transformation from being too afraid and guilty to speak up to Khalil, to leading the protests against his death in the streets of Garden Heights. Starr doesn’t condone violent techniques, such as rioting and looting, although she understands the anger that such violence stems from. Instead, as Ms. Ofrah points out, Starr’s voice is the most effective weapon she has in fighting injustice. Starr uses the national platform she never wanted or expected to have to speak up not just for Khalil, but for African Americans everywhere.
“‘Y’all gotta come together somehow, man,’ Daddy says. ‘For the sake of the Garden. The last thing they’d ever expect is some unity around here. A’ight?’”
Starr realizes the gravity of the moment that Maverick makes this statement. King Lords and Garden Disciples, who are entrenched in a rivalry so deep that it often leads to violence and death, are present in the same room without even a verbal argument breaking out. This is testament to Maverick’s powers of farsightedness and communication. But it also demonstrates the seriousness of police brutality. Both Garden Disciples and King Lords are united against the common injustice of racism. While one conversation is certainly not enough to fix the problems that gangs bring to Garden Heights, Maverick’s meeting is certainly a step towards unity. He points out that the rivalry between gangs is only detrimental to Garden Heights as a whole.
“‘Everybody wants to talk about how Khalil died,’ I say. ‘But this isn’t about how Khalil died. It’s about the fact that he lived. His life mattered. Khalil lived!’ I look at the cops again. ‘You hear me? Khalil lived!’”
This dramatic moment characterizes Starr’s transformation from grieving and afraid to brave activist. Even when she climbs on the police car, Starr is still nervous and unsure if the right words will come to her. In the end, though, Starr simply speaks from the heart, and her impassioned plea for the protestors to focus on Khalil’s life rather than his death resonates throughout the crowd. Starr’s blog "The Khalil I Know" reflects this principle: that even though Khalil’s death was tragic, he should not be seen as a stereotype or a statistic, but as a human being with his own hopes, fears, desires, and goals. Starr directs her statement towards the police officers because she knows that even unconscious dehumanization of African Americans leads to violence and death at the hands of authorities.
“If I face the truth, as ugly as it is, she’s right. I was ashamed of Garden Heights and everything in it. It seems stupid now though. I can’t change where I come from or what I’ve been through, so why should I be ashamed of what makes me, me? That’s like being ashamed of myself.”
Since she began attending Williamson Prep, Starr has always felt like she lived a double life. There is the “Garden Heights” Starr and the “Williamson Prep” Starr; both of these personas operate on different codes of behavior and use different kinds of language. Kenya has always recognized this duplicity, calling Starr out for pretending to be someone that she really isn’t. It takes most of the novel for Starr to come to a similar realization. She accepts that she can’t change her experiences, and she questions why she would even want to. Her family, her background, and every event that has occurred in her life have shaped her into the person she now is, so to be ashamed of those events would equate to being ashamed of her very self.
“Others are fighting too, even in the Garden, where sometimes it feels like there’s not a lot worth fighting for. People are realizing and shouting and marching and demanding. They’re not forgetting. I think that’s the most important part.”
These powerful lines occur at the end of the novel. They encapsulate the lesson Starr has learned about the importance of speaking up, of using her own voice and perspective to fight for what she believes is right. In addition, this quote points out the importance of not forgetting violence. When deaths such as Khalil’s are forgotten, people are not motivated to fight to change the system, and the cycle of violence continues unbroken. Starr also thinks that even when situations seem dire and circumstances appear hopeless, it’s essential to have hope and to keep fighting so that a brighter horizon can be created by the very people who are oppressed and their allies.
The Hate U Give Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Hate U Give is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.