Discrimination is a disease. It begins with a predetermined set of beliefs, norms and values – planted deep into our thoughts, and which determine the way we think and the way we react, especially to a group of people we consider not of our kind.
Having seeped into our mindset, it moves us to align our actions to the negative thoughts we have of others. This can propagate into a culture of violence and hate, a culture that enables the institution that breeds this disease to continue to oppress others.
The movie “The Hate U Give” speaks of just this kind of discrimination.
It centres around Starr Carter, a teenage girl juggling her upbringing in a predominantly black neighbourhood with a history of gang violence, and her high school education in a predominantly white school where she feels pressured to be the “non-threatening black friend”.
The theme of the movie peaks when Starr witnesses her best friend, Khalil Harris being shot by a white cop at a traffic stop.
This incident forces Starr to deal with the trauma of experiencing discrimination right before her very eyes.
The incident also becomes a trigger to a social movement in her black community where the link between notorious gangs, police brutality and the importance of family become the core of the movie.
Starr is understandably hesitant at first to tell her eyewitness account of the incident to a grand jury, but is reminded of the fact that this is the second time she has witnessed her best friend being shot.
She begins to realise that standing up against injustices is important as it is her duty as a friend to Khalil, and to make sure that institutions are aware that “Khalil lived”.
That slogan “Khalil lived” becomes the battle cry for the entire movie as it symbolises that victims of institutional discrimination are human beings with experiences that they lived through.
Starr begins to shed light on the facts of Khalil’s life that brought him to where he found himself the day he was shot.
Having to sell drugs for his very survival and because his mother is an addict, the movie shows the cycle of oppression that the black community has experienced for generations when they feel this is the only life they know.
This cycle of oppression is further amplified when at the end of the movie, Starr’s youngest brother picks up his father’s gun with the intent to kill.
The movie is strong in its message that it is up to society to dismantle discrimination and be the change they want to see, mostly because society has the power to change circumstances and end oppression.
Another facet of black-white conflict the movie explores is Starr’s friendship with her white high school friends.
When the school joins a “Justice for Khalil” protest, some of Starr’s friends decide to fight for Khalil by playing rap songs and using ghetto slang as a show of solidarity for him.
This however speaks to the larger question of how society builds feeble bonds of solidarity across all races in the face of discrimination.
Do we co-opt a community culture as our own without recognising the privileges we own? Or do we show greater solidarity by engaging in protests and actually understanding what is at stake for the oppressed that goes beyond what is considered cool or trendy?
To answer the question, society must understand the deeper issues of racism and that co-opting someone else’s culture can only shield one from their own racism.
This is a good movie to watch as it touches on how discrimination manifests itself in different ways.
It is a beautifully poignant tale that puts one at the heart of the issue while balancing optimism with the realities of society.