You hear the word “thug” and an image immediately comes to mind. I know it does for you and it does for me. That image has been sold to us in a pretty white package with a red bow. It’s so pretty that we accept it without question. We think we know how it came be and what it means. We think we know the true story. But we don’t know anything.
I bet you didn’t know “thug” stands for “The Hate U Give.” I bet you didn’t know the title of this book stood for "thug." I bet you didn’t know that when Tupac Shakur and other rappers talked about the “thug life” they were talking about coping with the hate that’s been given to them and how it continues to transform their future. I bet you didn’t know that there was another story to tell.
Tupac Shakur knew. Angie Thomas knew. And in The Hate U Give, Starr Carter learns firsthand when she witnesses her friend get shot by police during a traffic stop.
Starr is handing you a different white package with a red bow. She has the kind of voice that makes you want to let down your guard and listen. She explains things in a way that opens up your eyes to see. Read the book or watch the movie, I don’t care which, but let her guide you towards understanding that the stories we’re brought up with, the stories we’re told at bedtime, the stories that get told around the dinner table are not the only stories that exist. There are stories out there told in other homes and bedrooms and kitchen tables. In your home, the police might have been a source of comfort and safety, but in other homes they were a source of fear and death. Steel yourself against defensiveness and instead of blaming the character of the person over there, listen to Starr explain about the way she was raised and what her community was policed like. Instead of accepting the white package with the pretty red bow, join Starr in opening it up and learning its contents. Let's see what's really inside that makes it so complicated to have a conversation about race.
Because if we can't? If we can’t learn from each other’s stories, if we can't gain a common understanding of how people come to be in power and stay there, then we really are lost to the hate we give.
To read more of Shea’s book reviews and author interviews, writing tips, prompts, and memes, find her on her blog Shea’s Bookshelf.