Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressures from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right.
The Hate U Give is an inspirational film for its time. Though it felt long to sit through, it was important to watch, and the superb acting by everyone made up for what it lacked in editing. The content was exceptionally balanced, given its heated and sometimes controversial subject matter. The teenage protagonist, Starr (Amandla Stenberg), who lives in an economically challenged, predominantly African American neighborhood, is sent to a private school in a wealthy, mostly white area by her parents, who wish to protect her from the unfortunate violence and crime that surrounds them. Starr’s unique situation encourages her to adopt two identities, one which is carefully crafted to help her fit in where she is popular, with a white boyfriend, and mostly white friends, some of whom fail to grasp her perspective. Alternately, Starr behaves and even appears differently when she is at home in her culture with childhood friends, who fail to understand her allegiance to the part of her “other” life that includes people who are viewed as perpetuating division and superiority.
Starr finds it increasingly difficult to navigate her day-to-day, when one of her childhood friends is killed by a police officer in front of her. At this point, she begins to experience deep angst about injustice and racism that her father has spent her life communicating to her, and as a result, she reluctantly becomes an activist for the important cause of equality and goodwill.
This film communicates that the ultimate driving force behind the alienation experienced between individuals, communities, and races, is fear: white people are afraid of aspects of the culture that exist in the African American community that suffers from crime from within (as communicated by Starr’s uncle, who is himself a police officer), and the African American community is deeply wounded and fearful of what they see as the power of whites to define them and keep them chained to their misfortunes.
Aptly, her father names Starr precisely so she can be a light that shines in the darkness, illuminating what is true and what is false, and helping individuals to choose a path that enhances freedom for everyone. I applaud the efforts of the filmmakers to deal with these struggles fairly and in a way that does not alienate any viewer but instead encourages us all to consider how we can individually use our voices to highlight truth and love as the remedy for healing in our own relationships and communities that undeniably struggle with these issues.
Due to extreme violence and profane language, Dove is unable to award The Hate U Give the Dove-Approved Seal.
The Dove Take
Though the ultimate problems in this movie are not solved, it is an important film to watch and discuss with teenagers, as it sheds fresh light on current societal issues that threaten to further distance people from one another if we are not willing to embrace and accept responsibility for our individual choices, exercise empathy, and help bear one another’s burdens for the greater good of peace and understanding.