The Hate U Give provides honest look into police brutality and social activism

Sophia Weglarz, Assistant Opinion Editor

In what can only be described as perhaps the most compelling two hours of honest, topical conversation surrounding police brutality and social activism in a coming-of-age film, The Hate U Give has garnered much deserved critical acclaim and praise.

Directed by George Tillman Jr., The Hate U Give, based on the 2017 bestselling young adult novel by Angie Thomas, follows Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), a bright, Air Jordan-collecting teenager who lives across two worlds. Her home in the exuberant, predominantly black neighborhood, Garden Heights, is packed with character, but also is riddled with gangs and drugs, and her majority white, affluent private school, Williamson. Starr leads two lives in order to survive. Starr, by all accounts, is able to move past her heavy utilization of code-switching, albeit with a sense of reluctance.

Starr’s life takes a gut-wrenching turn when she becomes witness to the murder of her childhood friend, Kalil (Algee Smith), who is shot and killed by a police office in an unjustified traffic stop. In what can be described as one of the film’s most brilliantly emotional combinations of cinematography, screenwriting and acting, the audience fretfully watches Kalil’s interaction with a white police officer. Kalil is shown smiling at Starr from outside of the car, and before the audience can even blink, Kalil is shown bleeding out onto the ground, red and blue lights illuminating his face in bitter irony. Beyond the scene’s tragic nature, there is a particular honesty exuded in the scene, one that refuses to shy away from the reality of police brutality in America.

The rest of the film becomes a journey of Starr’s identity in the aftermath of Kalil’s murder. Starr notes a complete contrast in how her worlds react to the tragedy. While her world in Garden Heights is more than ready to mobilize and protest, making sure Kalil’s death was not in vain, her world at Williamson is hesitant, even resistant, to speak out about an issue that seemingly does not affect them. Starr finds herself at a crossroads, unable to decide whether or not she follow through on an obligation to her childhood friend and community to speak out or remain silent and avoidant of the trouble her outspokenness may yield.

While, the locations of Garden Heights and Williamson may be works of fiction, the story is all too real. From Tamir Rice to Michael Brown, to Laquan McDonald, The Hate U Give tells the same story with a different face. However, The Hate U Give and its portrayal of the implications of social activism in our current sociopolitical climate takes expectations of the ypung adult, coming-of-age film genre and shatters it completely. Although the praise for the stellar ensemble cast and breathtaking cinematography deserves an entirely different set of adulation The sincerity of The Hate U Give is the very definition of social activism.