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One of the most important films recently released, The Hate U Give, includes and discusses daunting themes that currently affect our society. The movie focuses on a young black girl, Starr, who lives in Garden Heights, a dangerous neighborhood that is predominately African Americans, but goes to a private school,Williamson, in a rich area with many white people. After being the only one to witness a tragedy, Starr begins to analyze the relationships she shares with the people in her school specifically with her friend, Hailey, and her boyfriend, Chris, who both play important roles. The depiction of these two distinct interracial relationships provides the audience a deeper understanding of sympathetic allyship and insensitive ignorance. Hailey portrays the insensitive, ignorant character who does not seem to care about what Starr is going through whereas Chris plays a character that grows to become an ally in an effort to be apart of her support system. The showcasing of these two characters ultimately help the audience reflect on their own behaviors and the way they approach these issues in modern society.
As a black student attending a school with a majority white demographic, Starr feels pressure to create two different versions of herself, depending on her environment. Starr Version 2 does not want to give people in Williamson a chance to call her ghetto so she does not use any slang and never makes a scene. She has two close friends and a boyfriend attending the school who don’t live in the her town. She has learned to balance both parts of her life until she witnesses the death of a loved one. On the night that Starr attends a party in her neighborhood, she meets an old friend, Khalil. As they are catching up, there was an altercation that resulted in gun shots being fired. They run to Khalil’s car for safety and leave the party. He pulls over to talk, but then he begins driving again until he is stopped by a police officer. The officer forces him out the car and then goes back to his vehicle. Starr is freaking out telling him not to move. Khalil picks a brush and then begins to brush his hair. The officer sees this and shoots. Khalil drops to the ground and Starr runs to him, balling her eyes out. This led to a world of chaos for Starr. From that moment on, she had to make a decision. She didn’t want anyone in her private school to know she witnessed the shooting, but she also wanted to be the voice for Khalil so that his murderer can be convicted. Being in this situation, Starr had to find her voice and stand up for what’s right, while also battling against the ignorance of her friends at Williamson.
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Starr and one of her closet friends, Hailey, begin having a healthy friendship. They play on the same basketball team and knew each other for a while. As the movie progresses, we begin to perceive Hailey in a negative limelight because of the racial, but subtle, ignorant comments that Hailey makes. Witnessing the death of Khalil and the racism behind his death was an eye opening experience for Starr. It wasn’t until then that she noticed the racial microaggressions that Hailey made towards her people. The day after Khalil’s murder, they were both at basketball practice and Starr was very unfocused and distraught from the incident. Hailey seemed to notice this and said, “Starr just pretend the ball is a piece of fried chicken”. Starr is clearly triggered by it and questions her right away. Hailey says she didn’t mean it that way so Starr shakes it off, clearly not trying to start anything. Hailey realized that Starr thought she was hinting at a stereotype, but doesn’t apologize for it, but insisted it was game talk and a joke. By including subtle comments such as these, the director wanted to provide the audience with insight on Hailey’s ignorance. Even though Hailey is close friends with Starr, she doesn’t seem to acknowledge the oppression that Starr’s people experiences. After news finally broke out of Khalil from Garden Heights, the school has a walk out to “protest” his death, Starr realizes that Hailey is only doing it to skip class not actually to protest the actual cause of police brutality that happens to Black people. This infuriates her because she knows it should be significant, not used as an excuse to skip class. Starr lets her know it’s not right , but instead she responds “Who else is gonna speak up for our people, girl?”. By beginning the rhetorical question with “who else”, Hailey makes it seem like she and and students from Williamson are the voices for the black community, but she isn’t. She also references “our people” which means she identifies herself as being apart of the black community which is ignorant because she doesn’t understand the black struggle. They face racial barriers and unjust treatment from society that Hailey does not experience because of her white privilege. She includes herself in the same racial category, but is not effected by the situation. At this point, she only really cares about missing a chemistry test, not about standing with the Black community to support the movement. Starr realizes her ignorance, but shakes it off and leaves.
As the story continues, we begin to see Hailey’s ignorance and insensitivity heighten. Starr’s relationship with her becomes rocky because of her inconsiderate behavior and inability to sympathize with what Starr is going through. In the movie, there is a scene where they were hanging out and Starr was evidently quiet because Khalil’s death was still relatively fresh. Hailey questions this, but then they turn the TV on and the officer was on the news. While watching, Hailey states, “Wow. That sucks. That poor family. His son was only trying to do his job and protect himself. His life matters too, you know… That cop’s life matters also. Are you gonna be mad because I said that too?”. Starr was enraged by the comment because she felt as though Hailey was not being sympathetic to the person who died and ironically enough, she was the same one protesting for Khalil earlier in the movie. This helped Starr realize Hailey’s perspective on the matter of police brutality against the black community. At this moment, Starr decided to confront her about it. After finally standing up against Hailey’s racial comment, it allows the audience to see Starr’s growth and downfall of their relationship.
Towards the end of the movie, there was a powerful scene that shows that Hailey’s ignorance and lack of sympathy will never change. Hailey goes up to Starr and asked if she was ever going to get over the situation. Starr was completely shocked because she couldn’t believe that Hailey was unable to sympathize. Starr then claims she’s acting racist and Hailey denies it. Hailey then states, “You’re different, Starr. You’re friend wasn’t. He was a drug dealer. Someone was probably going to kill him eventually.” Hailey never knew Khalil, but from the news she heard he was a drug dealer which made her think that he was dangerous. She didn’t understand why he became a drug dealer, but she knew Starr Version 2, the one that didn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto. In claiming that Starr was “different”, she meant that she didn’t see her as dangerous because of the way Starr behaved in Williamson. Starr then grabs a brush and questions Hailey if it looks like a weapon in her hands. She responds, “In his hand, yes.” Starr was livid by the response and began acting as if she was going to hit Hailey with the brush while saying, “ Get on the ground! Now! Down on the ground before I shoot you! Don’t move! Don’t move before I shoot you with it! What the hell did I just say? Don’t move! Hailey. Look at me and stop crying. That’s what it’s like.” Hailey is so scared she begins to cry, but Starr just wanted to show Hailey how it’s like when a police officer abuses their authority. She wanted to show her the fear that her people have every time they are stopped by police.
On the other hand, Starr’s boyfriend, Chris, is someone the audience begins to admire because of the fact that he at least tries to understand and sympathize with what his girlfriend and her people are going through. After everything that Starr experiences, she doesn’t confide in Chris because she doesn’t feel like he or anyone at Williamson Prep will understand. He doesn’t give up on her though. Chris consistently asks if she’s okay and tries to be there for her. The day of prom, he realizes that she was the witness in Khalil’s murder and tries to comfort her. As a result, she finally begins to open up to him. Through this conversation, he states, “I’m sorry Starr. I really am. But black, white, nobody gives a shit. We’re all the same.”. The audience can notice his ignorance about racism in society because of his claim that “We’re all the same”. He doesn’t seem to acknowledge his white privilege and think’s that no one else cares the races of others. In response to this, Starr discusses that the white people from her school don’t understand what it’s like to be black. He then states, “Starr, I just told you I don’t see color. I see people for who they are. The exact same way I see you.” The society presented in the movie accurately depicts the society we live in today where being of a darker skin complexion makes a difference in how people treat you. His ignorance behind “I don’t see color” stems from having a privileged life which blinds him from realizing that your race can affect the way you live. She responds, “If you don’t see color, then you don’t see me.”. It wasn’t until that moment where he understood that he has to be able to embrace her blackness in order to be an ally for Starr. He realizes what she’s going through and sticks with her. He does whatever he can to make sure he’s there for her. When Starr gets a text from her step sister that their brother was physically hurt by a drug dealer, Chris goes with her instead of leaving her to fend for herself. He continues to be there there for Starr to the very end where he drives Starr and her brother to the protest. He asks her what he wants her to do. She told him to leave to make sure her younger siblings were okay and at first he was hesitant in leaving her, but he realized that he needed to do this in order for her to become a voice in the protest.
Hailey’s and Chris’ characters are important to Starr’s growth because she begins to understand who they are. Hailey is a great example of ignorance and insensitivity, but does nothing to change, whereas Chris grows into a person that wants to become a potential ally for Starr after realizing what she goes through. Including someone like Hailey allows the audience to understand that some people are genuinely as close minded as she is and they choose to remain that way. She represents this large group of people who are ignorant and don’t really care about the issues of racism, but when it benefits them they’ll consider themselves an ally. Not even her relationship to Starr allows her to sympathize with her friend. All in all, her character plays an important antagonist who plays a valuable role that allows the audience to bring up the discussion of all the important themes in the movie and making sure they don’t make her mistakes. On the other hand, Chris’ character plays someone with significant growth. Initially, he was someone who was ignorant to the whole idea of racism, but as Starr let him into her life he begins to realize the injustice that they face. He doesn’t give up on Starr and wants to do everything he can to help her. He represents an ideal ally for someone experiencing the racial injustice because even though he can’t relate, he chooses to learn more about her life to understand her struggle.
In conclusion, this movie does a great job in discussing race relations in two different aspects. Chris and Hailey’s relationship to Starr were very crucial to Starr’s self awareness. Both characters are both very different where one makes an effort to change to become a better person in his relationship with Starr and the other is too close minded and ignorant to change for a better friendship. Having these two characters side by side and seeing these two relationships develop throughout the movie allows the audience to realize the real world applications of race relations in America.
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