The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas made its debut in 2017 and has become a pivotal novel for the times we’re in. And for very good reason. It’s a book that will hit you in the gut, all the while being inspired by the strength of the characters. Now it’s on the big screen, taking the viewer into a story that has become all to common, as names become Twitter hashtags and fill our news feeds. If you aren’t familiar with the book, here’s the description:
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night?
And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
The title of the book comes from hip-hop legend Tupac Shakur and his iconic THUG LIFE tattoo. Contrary to popular (or better yet, uneducated) belief, the tattoo had a deeper meaning. The first part stood for THE HATE U GIVE and Tupac revealed it was a statement against the oppression shown to Black Americans that starts from a young age.
I highly recommend this movie and book (heads up, there’s language), as it has quite a bit to teach us about seeing Imago Dei in everyone. Here’s a few I wanted to share:
Let Us Listen.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…” James 1:19-20
Oh church, we have to be willing to stop and listen. Too often I hear “well I haven’t seen that” or “I don’t think this really happens,” etc., etc. If we don’t take the time to stop and listen to people (or only listen to one side), how can we truly learn? How can we seek out those who are hurting and be the hands and feet of Jesus to them? Be a brother or sister in Christ to them? How can we show the world this incredible joy and love we know and have, if we turn away from people? If we refuse to listen to what they have to say? There’s a scene in the book and movie (minor spoiler), where one of Starr’s closest friends stops being her friend. She no longer responds to text messages, she unfollows her on Tumblr and when Starr calls her out on it, she quickly puts it back on Starr (saying she doesn’t know who she is anymore) and walks out. In the book we see Starr’s other friend, Maya, come clean: “She’s lying…that’s not why she unfollowed you. She said she didn’t wanna see that…on her dashboard. All the ‘black stuff’, she called it. The petitions. The Black Panther pictures. That post on those four little girls who were killed in that church…”
We must listen, even when it makes us uncomfortable. Listening to a person’s pain is more important than our comfort.
Don’t be Colorblind.
God created every single shade we all are. So see a person’s color, celebrate it, and be willing to hear how their lives might be different from yours because of it. One of the significant lines from Starr is when she tells her boyfriend Chris, who is white, “If you don’t see my blackness, you don’t see me.”
Humans aren’t Issues, They’re People. People made in God’s Image.
Whether we’re talking about racism in America, immigration, refugees, or any other social issue, when we see and or use terms like “them/they” or only see the issue, we cut out and ignore the humanity every person on this planet carries. When someone’s life is only an issue, it’s easy to ignore.
Church, this isn’t Jesus.
When we move from seeing people as fellow human beings and instead see them as categories or issues we don’t agree with/understand or “them,” we lose. We lose the chance to show love. We lose the chance to be a witness. We lose the chance to be light in an increasingly dark world. How can we make an impact if we instantly categorize people who don’t fit in our worldview or share our life experiences? We also lose the chance to meet incredible people and friends.
We can’t let political affiliations become the Christians standard. Jesus is neither Republican nor Democrat. As believers, we cannot live and die by a political party. We live & die by the Gospel. Otherwise we lose sight of our most important calling – to love people. That’s the Gospel.
I learned that from Jesus. He constantly walked and ministered to “the others” the religious considered dirty and ones to avoid. Whether that was the Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), the Samaritan woman (John 4), the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), or countless others who encountered Jesus.
It is our duty to open our ears and hearts and hear their cry. It is our duty to show the world the Light we follow. It is that Light Who will break chains, change hearts, and make a lasting impact that will echo throughout eternity.
It isn’t easy, it isn’t comfortable and it forces people to take a hard look at where their heart is, BUT when we do, we see each other as God wants us to.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3