6 October 2018
Strength in Numbers
In the riveting novel “The Hate U Give”, by Angie Thomas, we are quickly introduced to a young, African-American girl named Starr. Starr is a 16-year-old high school student who goes to an upscale private school called Williamson Prep, where she is one of the only black students, along with her older brother, Seven. However, she comes from a poor, predominantly black neighborhood filled with gangs and drug dealers, called Garden Heights. Starr is faced with a life-altering decision after she has tragically witnessed the unlawful murder of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Starr finds herself stuck between staying quiet and safe, or taking a risk and speaking out. Throughout it all she has an amazing support system by her side, and Angie Thomas introduces readers to an unbreakable bond between Starr and her loved ones, one that helps Starr overcome all the obstacles that come her way.
After witnessing the murder of her best friend, Starr is burdened with the idea of standing up against the world to get justice for Khalil, while also risking the safety of herself and her family. One of Starr’s biggest supporters during her time of need was her uncle Carlos. Growing up Carlos stepped up and played the father figure role for Starr and her brother, Seven, while their father was in jail. In the following quote Starr explains their relationship, “I was three when Daddy went to prison, six when he got out. A lot of my memories include him, but a lot of my firsts don’t. First day of school, the first time I lost a tooth, the first time I rode a bike without training wheels. In those memories, Uncle Carlos’s face is where Daddy’s should’ve been” (Thomas 58). This helps the audience better understand the love and strong bond built between Starr and her Uncle during the time of her father’s absence. As we continue reading we learn that Carlos is also a police officer, and even works with the officer who shot Khalil. After witnessing Khalil’s death, Starr is very fearful of police officers, and questions whether they’re really there to protect her or whether they target her, and people of her race. However, Carlos is the one thing Starr is sure about when it comes to the police system. Carlos constantly reassures Starr that any decision she makes he will protect her in and encourages her to tell her side of the story to investigators. Because of this, Starr speaks out and tells her side of the story to investigators, but if it weren’t for Carlos and his constant support for her, Starr would’ve never spoken out. Starr eventually opens up to her uncle and informs his that after the officer shot Khalil, he also pointed his gun at her until backup arrived. This news frustrates Carlos and he is eventually put on leave after attacking the officer who shot Khalil. Starr expresses that he shouldn’t have risked his job for her and he tells her, “‘But I love you more. You’re one reason I even became a cop, baby girl’” (Thomas 255). Although Carlos was a cop, he never let that affect the way he supported his niece and he ensured she always felt comfortable speaking out and constantly reminded her she was loved. He was the one person who reminded Starr that not all cops are bad.
Another major key supporter in Starr’s life is her older brother, Seven. Throughout the entire story Seven is known as a protector. Since day one he has always had Starr’s back. Seven tries to maintain the normalcy in Starr’s life, always cracking jokes and taking her to play their monthly basketball game, even during the riots that were taking place in Garden Heights. “Seven bangs his fist against the door… ‘We’re leaving in ten.’… ‘Leaving for what?’ I ask him. ‘Basketball at the park. It’s the last Saturday of the month, right? Isn’t this what we always do?’” (Thomas 142). Seven knows the importance of maintaining simple activities in Starr’s life so she doesn’t get lost in Khalil’s death. Eventually throughout the story we learn that Starr’s best friend, Hailey, is racist, and Starr ends up fighting her. During the fight Hailey’s brother, Remy, tries to push Starr, and Seven jumps in to protect her. “…A blur of dreadlocks charges at us and pushes Remy back. ‘Get your hands off my sister!’ Seven says. And then they’re fighting. Seven throws blows like nobody’s business, knocking Remy upside his head with several good hooks and jabs” (Thomas 342). Seven gives Starr a sense of comfort throughout the entire story. Starr knows he’s there at school with her if anything goes wrong, and also knows he’s right there with her at home whenever she needs anything. Without Seven, Starr may not have the confidence to stand up for herself, not knowing who would be by her side if she did. Seven physically and emotionally protects Starr throughout the entire story, and always reminds her she is strong, and this hardship won’t defeat her.
Lastly, Starr’s boyfriend, Chris, is one of the main people who keep Starr sane, in both of her divided worlds. After Khalil’s death Starr pushes away many of the important people in her life, including Chris. However, Chris was always there trying to be there for her, even when she didn’t want him to be. Starr explains, “‘I didn’t trust you. I didn’t want you to just see me as the girl from the ghetto’”, while Chris counters her comment by stating “‘You didn’t even give me the chance to prove you wrong. I wanna be there for you. You gotta let me in’” (Thomas 300). After the decision was made that the officer who killed Khalil wasn’t guilty, Starr felt defeated, by Chris was there for her the entire time. “He looks at me and I look at him. My vision blurs. Chris wraps his arms around me and pulls me closer. I bury my face in his shirt. He smells like a perfect combination of Lever soap and Old Spice. The thump of his heart is better than any beat he’s ever made. My normal in the flesh” (Thomas 377). At this point, Starr is no longer ashamed of her second world, and lets Chris experience all of it. Without Chris, Starr may have never been able to express herself the way she’s always wanted. When the decision was made, riots started taking over Starr’s hometown and she wanted to participate in it. “Seven returns to the driver’s seat. ‘Chris, you want me to take you home?’ ‘I’m staying.’ Chris nods, as if he’s settling with himself. ‘Yeah, I’m staying… I want everyone to know that decision is bullshit’” (Thomas 390). Chris stuck by Starr’s side the entire time, protesting in a neighborhood he was stranger to. Chris respects Starr and her culture and wants her to know that he supports where she comes from, and without him by her side, Starr would probably question many white people and their intentions. He provides Starr with a love and support different than the love from her family, because he doesn’t have to love her, he chooses too.
Concluding, Starr’s family and friends support her endlessly, all in different ways. They manage to keep her sane and remind her she is loved in her time of anger, doubt and frustration. They all play a key role in the voice she protests with. Starr isn’t alone and because of this she feels strong and confident enough to speak out to the world. “Be roses that grow in the concrete” (Thomas Acknowledgements). Starr is the rose, the world against her is the concrete, and the water used to help the rose grow is Starr’s support system.
Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give. First ed., New York, HarperCollins Publishers, 2017.
Essay by Mackenzi Ferden is licensed under a Creative Commons International 4.0 License