Making Criminals (The Hate U Give)

The Hate U GiveSo, a little backstory before I dive into this entry: When I was growing up, I loved Drew Barrymore, and Ever After was one of my favorite films starring her. Drew Barrymore’s character, Danielle De Barbarac, loved books, and the last book her father gave her before he died was Utopia by Thomas More. She quotes Utopia in the movie and lives by More’s ideals. She uses the book as a defense against selling servants, quoting More: “For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them?” The book was published in 1516, so it is old, to say the least. What I find interesting is the idea of an “appearance of justice” More wrote about back then is remarkably similar to the “justice” (or lack thereof) Starr sees in The Hate U Give. 

More’s quote is interestingly similar to Tupac’s verse quoted in The Hate U Give: “The Hate U Give Little Infants F*cks Everybody” (page 17). Both Tupac and More mention infants. Tupac says, “The Hate U Give Little Infants…” More writes, “…and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy…” Both are basically saying neither group is given an opportunity to be more than they are because they are not supported. They are born into their stations and are stuck there.

Making Criminals

In her television interview, Starr says, “If people knew why [Khalil] sold drugs, they wouldn’t talk about him that way” (page 287).  Khalil had a sick grandmother, and his mother was addicted to drugs. He had few options to help his family out because opportunities were limited for him in Garden Heights. I don’t want to defend Khalil by saying selling drugs was okay, and I don’t think Starr meant to either, but I think what she means in this scene, and how I felt about the situation while reading, is that Khalil’s choices, while sad, were understandable. His “manners” were “corrupted from infancy.” He was given “hate” as an infant (meaning lack of support from a young age). What choices did he have?

He worked for Starr’s father and could have tried to support his family with his minimum wage job there, sure, but the benefits of working for King far outweighed the benefits of working for Starr’s father. There was little opportunity for him in the real world. Starr’s father says, “Corporate America don’t bring jobs to our communities, and they damn sure ain’t quick to hire us. . . Even if you have a high school diploma, so many of the schools in our neighborhoods don’t prepare us well enough” (page 169). Maverick goes on to say, “Our schools don’t get the resources to equip you . . . It’s easier to find some crack than it is to find a good school around here” (page 169).

Maverick has Starr draw the conclusion that it isn’t just black people who are “corrupted,” but rather “. . . minorities, poor people. Everybody at the bottom in society” (page 168). Maverick adds, “the oppressed” (page 169).

King offered Khalil a chance to make some real money and do some good for his family. King offered him wealth, stability, respect, and protection. We have to remember that Khalil was a kid, still, a high schooler. He may not have been able to comprehend that that one decision could be for life. Maverick had to make a deal and go to jail to protect King in exchange for getting out of the gang. If Khalil lived, he would have been stuck. “Corrupted from infancy,” he was tied to his station. Maverick would have been as well if he did not make the sacrifices he did.

Starr and Maverick discuss that even though they are at the bottom of society, they are the most feared (page 168). People fear what they do not understand. Groups like The Black Panthers have gone into communities to educate the oppressed, but the government has retaliated against them. Starr says it is because the government fears them (page 168). Reading about things like that makes me feel like the oppressed are still being tied to their stations.

The Black Lives Matter movement is about more than ending discrimination from police and police brutality. BLM is about racial justice in education, diversifying schools, educating people, and supporting each other. It’s about lifting up the oppressed. I think the way to end gang culture and gang violence is with education and support. It’s a longer conversation than I can write about in this post, but it is a conversation our country is having now and that everyone can get involved in and participate in.

Near the end of the novel, Starr finds out that One-Fifteen was not indicted by the Grand Jury. The community comes together to protest and to stand together. They make a stand against King, which is important and is the light at the end of the book. King will go to prison. However, is King, too, not oppressed? I want to leave you guys with a question/thinking point to chew on: “what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make [criminals] and then punish them?”

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