The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas focuses on the racism that black communities face in modern America. Throughout the novel, Thomas highlights the impact of the media, particularly how it influences society, elevates racism and creates bonds between characters.
In The Hate U Give the media strongly influences society and encourages racism. One of the forms of media used is music, during a Garden Height’s riot following the grand jury’s conclusion that officer one-fifteen is innocent the N.W.As ‘F*ck Tha Police’ blasts, the title of the song alone portrays the mood of the characters. They sing out “fuck the police […] a young nigga got it bad ‘cause I’m brown” (pg.388) emphasising how hip-hop connects to the pain the black community is experiencing, with the lyrics reflecting that Khalil was murdered simply because of the colour of his skin. Mainstream critics dismiss hip-hop as a violent genre of music forming a stereotype around it that fits in with how the media in The Hate U Give refers to Khalil’s neighbourhood as “ghetto” (pg.74), alluding to the stereotype that black youth are threatening. Although, to compare Khalil’s neighbourhood to hip-hop, they each hold more meaning below the surface. For instance, Khalil explains Tupac’s definition of the acronym “Thug Life” (pg. 21), Khalil explains to Starr, “Pac said Thug Life stood for ‘The Hate U Give Little Infants F*cks Everybody” (pg.21). Despite the phrase initially sounding like it glorifies gang violence, one explained, it is clear that it highlights the circumstances that create violence in black communities. Similarly, the TV news alludes to black stereotypes to justify racism, displaying “a photograph of Khalil’s black hairbrush, the one he used in the car” (pg.214), following this officer one fifteen’s claim that “he saw it in the car door, and assumed Khalil was reaching for it. The handle was thick enough, black enough for him to assume it was a gun” (pg.215). The underlying connotation of the brush’s description relates to Khalil’s skin colour, suggesting that “Khalil was black enough” (pg. 215) for one-fifteen to assume that he would be a violent threat. The media influences society through the allusion of stereotypes and, as a result, encourages racism within the community.
Officer one-fifteen symbolises racism in the American law enforcement system throughout the novel. However, his actions are condoned through the sympathy he receives from characters; this is displayed through the use of pathos to appeal to characters emotions through the media. One-fifteens farther speaks for his son in a news interview saying, “soon as I pulled him over, I had a bad feeling” (pg.243). This comment encourages Hailey to sympathise one-fifteens situation, saying what he is going through “is awful […] that poor family” (pg.244). This ultimately demonstrates how the media elevates racism by manipulating the story to portray their favoured side, resulting in society accepting racism. Starr refers to the one-fifteen by his number rather than his name, dehumanising him to represent how he saw Khalil as a black threat rather than a human being. Referring to him as one-fifteen is also highlighting that he is a statistic that is a part of a much larger system that condones police brutality against black communities, emphasising that the problem is the entire system not one officer. The media’s approach to justifying the shooting was to release the news headline “Khalil Harris, a suspected drug dealer” (pg106). It is evident that the headline comes with negative connotations, immediately moving the blame of Khalil’s death onto himself by associating him with gangs, suggesting that he was violent and dangerous. Thomas’s use of pathos and negative connotations effectively illustrates how the media elevates racism by displaying it as socially acceptable.
The media plays a critical role in forming relationships in The Hate U Give, particularly between Chris and Starr, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air creates a bond between the two characters when, “one Saturday [Starr] reblogged a bunch of Fresh Prince GIFs and clips. [Chris] liked every single one” (pg.85), foreshadowing Chris and Starr’s future relationship that sparks from their common interest in the show, also suggesting Chris’s commitment to Starr that does not die out. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a motif that recurs throughout the novel, representing Starr’s struggle to be herself in white communities such as Williamston High. By Chris calling Starr his “Fresh Princess” (pg.85) it implies that he promises Starr that he will continue to accept her as every version of herself. After Khalil’s death Starr created a Tumblr page named “The Khalil I Know” (pg. 202), the title emphasises that he is not what the media is portraying him to be. After creating the page, “in just two hours, hundreds of people have liked and reblogged the pictures” (pg. 203), here the media has allowed hundreds of people to connect over their shared sadness for Khalil, ultimately spreading his true story rather than the stereotypes other forms of media have been alluding to.
Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give highlights the significant negative and positive impacts the media can have on people lives. Ultimately displaying how it can influence societies view on black communities, elevate racism by alluding to stereotypes as well as create bonds between characters.