The film, which was based on a popular young-adult novel, tackles issues of police brutality and identity. (Illustration by Nymera Nicole, Academy of Art University)
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The film, which was based on a popular young-adult novel, tackles issues of police brutality and identity. (Illustration by Nymera Nicole, Academy of Art University)

It’s a message: stand up for what you believe in, regardless of the consequences.

It’s possible that you’ve heard of the phrase: “THUG LIFE — The Hate U Give Little Infants Effs Everybody.”

This saying, made by 2Pac, was Angie Thomas’s inspiration for her New York Times bestselling novel, “The Hate U Give.” The film adaptation was set to release on Oct. 19, but I got the chance to see it at an early showing.

“The Hate U Give” revolves around Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), a teenager who has two different lives, one as a resident of the high-poverty, primarily black neighborhood of Garden Heights, and the other as a privileged student at Williamson Prep. One night, at a Garden Heights party, gunshots are fired and Carter leaves with her longtime friend Khalil (Algee Smith). As the night goes on, however, they get pulled over by the police. Carter ends up being the prime witness to Khalil getting shot by a white police officer.

The rest of the film follows Carter and her family as she faces the inner battle of whether she should stand up for the late Khalil or just stand by as the mystery witness.

With new breakout stars like Amandla Stenberg, Sabrina Carpenter, and K.J. Apa, the movie has been receiving a lot of buzz. But it’s more than just a young-adult adaptation of the novel; it’s a call for action for the younger generation.

Scott Mendelson, from Forbes Magazine, says the film “does not use the racism of yesterday to highlight the racism of today, instead offering a passion play about the institutional racism in the here and now.” In addition, “The Hate U Give” shines a light on the #BlackLivesMatter movement, but in a way that makes it hard to argue with.

The first scene opens with Carter and her siblings Seven (Lamar Johnson) and Sekani (T.J. Wright), getting “the talk” from their father, Maverick (Russell Hornsby). During this talk, Maverick makes sure that his children understand their rights and know when they are being mistreated. Addressing the rights from the first scene stresses the desideratum that children, of all races, should be aware of their rights.

This becomes prominent later in the film; when Maverick gets held down violently by police officers, Carter pulls out her phone and records the mistreatment, because she knew that, by doing so, she would have the power to create and release the media when needed.

While these scenes may just seem like they are adding to the plot, they are more than just that — by including the importance of media and freedom of speech rights, a significant message is displayed: Everyone should know what their rights are and how they can be used.

Knowing your rights is one thing, but having the courage and bravery to stand up for them is another. For Carter, her strength was shown after Khalil’s funeral. She felt obligated to speak for him, but at the same time, she didn’t want to be seen differently by her peers at school. After multiple disagreements with some of her “close” friends, Carter realizes that no one truly understood the circumstances that Khalil was in, and how most students felt bad for the white cop. In fact, the students at Williamson focused primarily on the fact that Khalil was a supposed drug dealer.

Carter knew that Khalil needed the money to pay for his grandmother’s cancer treatments and to support his family after his father left. Carter understood that, in the community he lived in, when you find an opportunity to make money and potentially create a better life, then the first thing you’d do is take advantage of it. In Garden Heights, drug dealing was their one way to get out, but also their one-way ticket to prison.

In addition not understanding what Khalil was going through, citizens of Garden Heights knew that King (Anthony Mackie), a major character in the movie, was the head of the drug dealing operations of the community, but nobody wanted to report him. King had people and resources to cause violence, and threatened Carter once she found out that Khalil was a dealer. King knew that Carter would have the courage to say something.

Despite King’s threats, Carter decided to do a television interview, but one where her face is blurred out and her voice would be altered so no one would recognize her. Going into the interview, Carter knew that Khalil was a drug dealer, but she never saw him as just that.

Carter focused her thoughts more about the innocence of Khalil at the time of the shooting during the interview, not what he did to pay the bills. Unfortunately, it is almost human nature that people only listen to the negatives of a person when they form an opinion, or at least in most cases when it involves a person of color.

This became clear when it came time for the grand jury, because it was decided that King would not be indicted.

It’s crazy how accurate this movie, and the book, reflect this harsh reality. Charges are only being held against people under certain demographics. It may not be right, but it’s how the justice system works. That’s why when big trials are being covered on the news, people who stand for justice are making their mark, protesting for the better good.

It’s what Carter did for Khalil after the grand jury voted against the indictment. Along with Carter, Garden Heights community members made a peaceful protest outside of the court house, yet police officers were still being hostile, and threw tear gas at them.

It was a scene that quickly went from prompting justice to one of terror.

While running away from the tear gas, Carter and Seven ended up at their father’s grocery story. As soon as they were about to leave, however, King’s men started a fire at the store. Carter and Seven tried to escape but the back door was locked. After a few minutes, Maverick and the rest of Carter’s family arrived at the store to try and rescue them.

When Carter and Seven were safe, Maverick confronted King about his actions when King pointed a gun to Maverick’s head. Carter’s whole family reacted, but the most prominent reaction came her little brother, Sekani, who ended up holding the gun. An 8-year-old was holding a gun and aiming at someone else.

“The Hate U Give Little Infants Effs Everybody.”

People never truly realize the impact of their words and actions until someone younger is doing or saying the same things. Whether people know it or not, everything is a cycle. Expected income, certain action, even justice — it’s all a cycle. It’s a cycle that shouldn’t be applicable to people, but something that after significant media coverage and protests, our culture just can’t seem to change.

In general, “The Hate U Give” was not only the telling of an emotional story, but it passed on the message that the younger generation should know their rights and stand up for what they believe, regardless of the consequences.

“The Hate U Give” is a must-watch for everyone in this generation. It is clear that I will never understand and feel what someone in a high-poverty, primarily black neighborhood will go through, but movies like this have the ability to help me sympathize. Watching this movie was like being in a black hole, but in a good way. Once it started, I couldn’t get out, and even now, I can’t stop thinking about it.


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