Dear Angie Thomas,
I am a Canadian teen who lives in a predominantly Asian neighbourhood but goes to school in a predominantly white neighbourhood.
My city is four times the population of your hometown, Jackson, Mississippi, yet in 2019, there was a record-low number of 10 homicides versus Jackson’s almost record-high 82.
I am writing to you as a bibliophile who feels that every book teaches me something, to let you know that The Hate U Give changed my life and perspective more than any other book I have read. Three years ago, Starr Carter, her experiences, and her real-life world made an impact on me more profound than any lesson in the classroom.
Where I live, racism is not blatant. Many socio-economic divides between races are not obvious. But in Starr’s Garden Heights, the inequalities between the black and white communities are infuriating even on a surface level. The “cycle of poverty” is often used to describe the hardships people in developing countries face, but closer to home, within North America, there are too many instances of young people having to work in dangerous conditions to provide for their families.
Ms. Thomas, you are a hero for giving names to these based-on-reality stories, for embodying all kinds of tragedies and triumphs into fictional flesh. Starr cannot be simply labeled as a girl who lost her best friend to police brutality. Starr is a brave and intelligent fighter who rallies her community together: to act upon their grief and anger by calling out injustice, to mourn a life unjustifiably lost, but also to celebrate any small victory against an intricately flawed system, and to celebrate Khalil.
Khalil, who should not have been remembered by the media and public as a gang member, but a fiercely loyal brother and grandson who acted as a parent, caregiver, and friend in the best ways he could. Khalil, who just wanted to make Starr laugh during the scariest moment of both of their lives. Khalil, who like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, held no weapon in his hands and worked tirelessly to care for his family and his community; who like Tamir Rice and Alejandro Vargas Martinez, had not yet been of age to graduate from high school.
Ms. Thomas, I will never be able to fully relate to or understand the struggles of the black community. But I can assure you that myself and my community of allies stand unconditionally with your community; with you and the others who like Starr Carter, are champions for equal rights and raising awareness of the issues that need change; and we mourn along with the families and friends of those who like Khalil Harris, were lost too soon to an inherently damaged system.
In the end, however, Starr and I are both teenage girls who love basketball, music, and collecting sneakers, who happen to be caught between two cultures. I will never be “Chinese enough” nor “white enough,” but why should that matter? Anyone can open their eyes to new perspectives through books like The Hate U Give, empathize with the characters and the real-life people they represent. Anyone can cry when watching movie adaptations of these stories, being moved to tears by Amandla Stenberg. We can all speak up for what is wrong in our world, to protect the beautiful lives of those marginalized because of the shade of their skin, and we can come together as Starr and Khalil wanted.
Ms. Thomas, thank you.