The Hate U Give: Illuminating Police Brutality and Racial Injustice

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Updated: Sep 08, 2023
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Police brutality exists in many countries and territories, even those that persecute it. Although illegal, it can be performed under the color of law. The modern definition of police brutality is police officers’ brutality putting down a peaceful civilian in places like Selma, Alabama. In the book, The Hate U Give, sixteen-year-old Star Carter witness the killing of Khalil Harris, her unarmed black friend, by a white police officer. The author shows a specific moment of police brutality that sets the mood of the novel.

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The author uses literary devices to develop the central idea about police brutality against minorities. Angie Thomas also presents excessive force as part of a larger part of racism and the criminalization of black communities in America as a whole.

Depiction of Police Brutality and Racism in “The Hate U Give”

Throughout the novel, police brutality is a big part of Starr’s. Her parents, Maverick and Lisa, give each of her children “the talk” about how to act around law enforcement. For black kids is a matter of life and death knowing how to act around law enforcement because not knowing how to act around them it could get to a really difficult situation. The criminalization of black youth appears early in the novel when Khalil is shot during a traffic stop sign for no reason. This scene establishes that black people, even children, are not only not afforded a presumption of innocence but are often deemed threats.

The novel thus suggests that black children are not simply robbed of their innocence but also killed for minor transgressions. In the novel, it states, “As long as I play it cool and keep to myself, I should be fine. The ironic thing is though, at Williamson, I don’t have to “play it cool” — I’m cool by default because I’m one of the only black kids there. I have to earn coolness in Garden Heights, and that’s more difficult than buying retro Jordans on release day”. This quote shows how Starr told herself in her when she got stopped by the police officers to play it cool, and her parents talked to them about how to act around police officers. Thomas suggests that police brutality is not just about individual officers but rather a culture that allows prejudice and violence against communities of color to go unchecked.

Analysis of Tone and Mood in Depicting the Central Theme

In the novel, Thomas uses tone and mood to determine the central idea of the novel. Starr’s witty, sarcastic, and upbeat social commentary gives the novel an optimistic tone in the face of tragedy. However, the book also has undertones of anger at the oppressive systems that its characters must fight against each and every day. Because of Starr’s personality, the novel is set out to be the way it is. She was scared to speak up and tell people about the situation and how she was there and witnessed what happened to Khalil, and she wasn’t engaged with her neighborhood, but she attended a wealthy white school.

But eventually, she becomes more engaged in the fight for racial justice, going so far as to climb into a police car and address the crowd at riots following the indictment verdict in Khalil’s case. In the novel, it shows how Starr used to prepare herself when she was around her neighborhood friends and her in-school friends “Chris and Maya walk through the gate, and my stomach gets all jittery. I should be used to my two worlds colliding, but I never know which Starr I should be. I can use some slang, but not too much slang, some attitude, but not too much attitude, so I’m not a “sassy black girl.”

I have to watch what I say and how I say it, but I can’t sound “white.” Based on this quote from the novel, you can see how it sets a mood throughout the book because it shows how Starr cared about what her friends thought of her, and if she used to act privileged in front of them, they would think that she was to “write for them.” This connects to police brutality because her skin color would never change and because her friend Khalil was black and had a brush in his car, the police officer thought it was a gun, and he was killed, and she was brave enough to put herself out there and do something for justice for her friend.


To conclude, one of the main themes in this novel is police brutality which is the main issue in the novel and the one that determines the action of the novel. Because of what happened to Khalil and Starr being there to witness it, she realized how the world really is and how cruel and racist people could be. This points to a broken culture of policing in general, even if not all officers are actively racist. Not everybody is the same, and some people really go with what they believe is right.

Throughout history, this has been an issue that has been increasing instead of decreasing, and the minorities are the ones that are paying for her and are the ones that are dying. This book shows how law enforcement is really broken, and they are only a few of them that go by the law and actually help people instead of killing them. The novel uses literary devices such as tonal shifts and tone to set a mood for the reader.

Works Cited

  1. Alexander, M. (2010). The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The New Press.
  2. Coates, T-N. (2015). Between the World and Me. Spiegel & Grau.
  3. Thomas, A. (2017). The Hate U Give. Balzer + Bray.
  4. Chaney, C. & Robertson, R. V. (2013). Racism and Police Brutality in America. Journal of African American Studies, 17, 480-505.
  5. Brunson, R. K. (2007). “Police Don’t Like Black People”: African?American Young Men’s Accumulated Police Experiences. Criminology & Public Policy, 6(1), 71-101.
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The Hate U Give: Illuminating Police Brutality and Racial Injustice. (2023, Jun 14). Retrieved from