The Hate U Give, starring Amandla Stenberg and based on the bestselling novel by Angie Thomas, might just be the most important film of the year. We saw it at the Toronto International Film Festival last month, and now you can see it, too, when it hits theatres everywhere on October 19!
Here are 5 things the movie teaches us about the #BlackLivesMatter movement, finding our voice and how to make change in the world we live in:
Empathy is more powerful than sympathy.
It’s one thing to feel sad and angry about the fact that black people are much more likely to be shot by police than their white peers in the United States, but it’s another to put yourself in those shoes if you aren’t African-American. Racism affects every single aspect of society: the economy, the criminal justice system, the work force, the housing market, health care, politics, education and more. For black people, fighting against it can be a matter of life and death. If you are not black, but understand how unfair that is, you should feel obligated to fight against it as well.
How can you practice empathy over sympathy in your own life? The Hate U Give’s author, Angie Thomas, shared the following: “Ask yourself: ‘Do I know what it’s like to be someone who isn’t like me in my community, in my neighbourhood, in my city, in my state?’ If you don’t know, take the time to find out,” she explained. “Once you do, you’ll be surprised that there are issues happening right around you that you have the power to change.”
You are “roses in concrete.”
The Hate U Give’s title was inspired by rapper Tupac Shakur and the iconic “Thug Life” tattoo across his chest. According to Angie, another significant Tupac reference in this story comes from his poetry. Specifically, his poem “The Rose that Grew from Concrete” is a metaphor for young people who grow up in difficult circumstances.
Just like Starr, Seven and all the other kids in the film, if you’re living in a tough situation, you’re still a rose: still beautiful, still good, still innocent. Just because things around you might be bad doesn’t mean you are. If you identify with Starr, Angie hopes The Hate U Give will remind you that you aren’t alone in your fear, frustration, and sadness in the face of racism, prejudice and injustice. “We have to find light in darkness,” she says. “I think that we have to love ourselves before anyone else will.”
How to be a better #BlackLivesMatter ally.
If you’re not a person of color, it is on you to listen, ask “What can I do?” and use your privilege to help. You’ll see this in KJ Apa’s character (Chris) in the film, but realize he is not the hero of this story. White people don’t deserve a gold star just for being decent human beings. Doing your part to make this world a better, more equal place is something to take on not for praise or attention, but because it is the right thing to do.
The burden of undoing racism should not be carried by those most affected by it. If you reap its benefits, it is your responsibility to fix, too.
You can’t be “colorblind” when it comes to race.
A world where people “don’t see color” is one where racism doesn’t exist anymore. Unfortunately, we do not live in a post-racial society. Like Starr says in the movie, “if you don’t see my blackness, you don’t see me.” If you are able to think of the world as colorless, you are being ignorant to the harsh realities black people face every day.
We can’t ignore the issues. To make the change, we must acknowledge that certain races have it easier than others. According to Anthony Mackie (who plays King), “The problem is not that you see color, the problem is what you think when you see that color.”
Your voice is more powerful than you know.
Throughout the film, you’ll see Starr struggle to be who other people want her to be. By finding her activism and learning to let go of friends who silence her, she realizes that the strongest voice she can control is her own. You need to realize this about yourself!
“At the end of the day, the youth is the future. The youth is going to make a difference in this world,” Lamar Johnson (Seven) told us at TIFF. “Whatever voice you have and whatever platform you have, it’s really important that you use it to inform and educate — like Starr did. You can really inspire a generation. Your voice is never too small.”
Watch our EXCLUSIVE interviews with “The Hate U Give” cast below: