THUG vs. the Truth

Like the novel it's based on, the film version of The Hate U Give (THUG) received rave reviews.  I knew exactly what to expect, but out of curiosity, I recently read THUG.  It didn't disappoint.  At every turn, there's an extra helping of dangerous false narrative.

It's a quick and easy read.  The pacing is taut, the characters well formed (except the white ones...I'll get to that).  All the right lingo is present: basic, fresh, a'ight, ratchet, nae nae, and so on.  Verb conjugation dutifully follows AAVE syntax.

THUG is chock-full of black culture – Malcolm X, Black Jesus, Nation of Islam.  Basketball, hip-hop, an obsession with sneakers.  The Black Power fist makes many appearances, hero-worship of Tupac even more.  There are plenty of baby-daddies and lots of gangland lore.  All very authentic.  We're obviously getting the real deal.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter lives in Garden Heights, a drug-infested ghetto brimming with crime and squalor.  But Starr's lucky – she attends a white people school forty-five minutes away, where she's cool by default.  She can't quite be herself, though.  No slang or she's hood.  No aggression or she's angry black girl.

Anti-white hostility is rampant in THUG – the kind that's so mainstream nowadays that it goes unnoticed.  Anger, hostility, and resentment drip from the black characters.  Starr's resentment, muted in early chapters, gains traction as events unfold.  To keep the reader on board, THUG provides convenient proxies for white wickedness: racist white chick and racist white cop.

When Starr and her friend Khalil are pulled over by racist white cop for a busted taillight, one thing leads to another, and – pow, pow, pow.  Khalil is shot three times in the back.  I'm left wondering why.  What was the motive?  Hatred of blacks?  Irrational fear?  We never get an answer.

Starr is an eyewitness, but she narrates the event poorly.  It's blurry to the reader – perhaps by design?  Eventually, we learn something about a hairbrush, but it's never fully explained.  The scene depicts cold-blooded murder, yet, at the same time, it feels outrageously improbable.  Unconvincing.  Cue outrage from the Hands Up, Don't Shoot crowd.

If this cop is such a monster, where's he been hiding it the past sixteen years?  There's no track record of such behavior, at least none mentioned.  And would he not have at least yelled at Khalil before shooting?  Sorry, not believable. 

Alas, national media attention descends on Garden Heights, as does Ferguson-style rioting, looting, and arson.  At one point, two white cops are dragged from their squad car and beaten.  This is an inconsequential aside that no one dwells on.  Everybody is too busy sharpening his hatred for whites.

The pressure on Starr, as an eyewitness, is mounting, from both law enforcement and Khalil's gang associates.  Intimidation ramps up.  There's a drive-by shooting.  A brick is thrown through a window.  Starr's father blames the cops.  Daddy is stuck in the 1960s, reliving Black Panther glory years, spreading dysfunctional fantasies to all in his path.

In a parallel plot, we get a measure of justice when the novel's other villain, racist white chick (blonde, obviously), gets her due.  Starr despises Hailey from the outset, and the drama predictably culminates in violence. It's okay, though; the racist b‑‑‑‑ was running her mouth.

This part feels authentic – I've seen enough Colin Flaherty to know THUG wouldn't be complete without an episode of black-on-white violence.  Later, Starr's family members revel in the attack as they enjoy it on video.  A feel-good moment.

The other noteworthy white character is Chris, Starr's boyfriend.  He's meant to redeem whites, to show they're not all terrible human beings.  His family's wealthy.  His father owns eight cars, and they have black servants.  Seriously.

Chris's role is to be as colorless and compliant as possible.  To give him a hint of humanity, he spouts mundane jokes now and again.  More than once, he feels the need to apologize on behalf of white people.

He's teased relentlessly for his whiteness, but all in good fun.  There are moments of redemption: he gets the ultimate compliment when Starr's brother declares, You ain't white, you light-skinned.  Later, Daddy, who despises Chris on sight, promotes him from White Boy to Plain-Ass Chris.  Huge!

Chris is the model for acceptable white behavior, like when he goes silent every time Cube says nigga, and Starr rightfully confirms as he should.  Grovel and submit.  Preferably, keep your mouth shut.  That's the recommended approach, I gather.  I wonder what Starr sees in this weasely little beta.

In fairness, THUG also presents an Asian character, Maya.  She's given huge virtue.  We get another feel-good moment when Maya and Starr declare a minority alliance: We minorities need to stick together.  Translation: People of color, team up to hate Whitey.  You go girl!

The plot is predictable.  Rioting continues, then goes off the charts when the grand jury delivers its verdict.  Time to burn some s‑‑‑ up, Starr's brother announces.  Daddy may lose his store, but he's spray-painted Black-owned on it, so evidently, it should be fine.

Getting in on the protest, Starr addresses a crowd from the top of a police cruiser.  They had no podium, I gather.  No surprise, her message is anti-cop, pro-Khalil.  But the evil cops cut her short.  She just can't win.

Activist lawyer Ms. Ofrah proclaims that Starr has a bright future in activism.  It's a growing industry, so I imagine that her prospects are good.  There's also redemption when everyone simultaneously breaks the no snitching rule and King (the leader of the bad gang) is hauled away by cops (good ones, I presume).  Victory!

There are many problems in Starr's community – fatherless homes, crime, drugs, depravity.  A code of silence that renders policing impossible.  Cops are not the problem.  Without cops, communities like Garden Heights disintegrate.  They cease to exist.

THUG presents a grossly distorted worldview, an extended guilt trip for white America.  Black violence and hostility are encouraged, justified, glorified.  The book, and the movie, breathes life into a toxic false narrative that festered during Obama's tenure.  In light of what actually happens on American streets, THUG's message is not only deeply dishonest, but chillingly dangerous and irresponsible.

K.M Breakey is the author of Johnny and Jamaal.

Like the novel it's based on, the film version of The Hate U Give (THUG) received rave reviews.  I knew exactly what to expect, but out of curiosity, I recently read THUG.  It didn't disappoint.  At every turn, there's an extra helping of dangerous false narrative.

It's a quick and easy read.  The pacing is taut, the characters well formed (except the white ones...I'll get to that).  All the right lingo is present: basic, fresh, a'ight, ratchet, nae nae, and so on.  Verb conjugation dutifully follows AAVE syntax.

THUG is chock-full of black culture – Malcolm X, Black Jesus, Nation of Islam.  Basketball, hip-hop, an obsession with sneakers.  The Black Power fist makes many appearances, hero-worship of Tupac even more.  There are plenty of baby-daddies and lots of gangland lore.  All very authentic.  We're obviously getting the real deal.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter lives in Garden Heights, a drug-infested ghetto brimming with crime and squalor.  But Starr's lucky – she attends a white people school forty-five minutes away, where she's cool by default.  She can't quite be herself, though.  No slang or she's hood.  No aggression or she's angry black girl.

Anti-white hostility is rampant in THUG – the kind that's so mainstream nowadays that it goes unnoticed.  Anger, hostility, and resentment drip from the black characters.  Starr's resentment, muted in early chapters, gains traction as events unfold.  To keep the reader on board, THUG provides convenient proxies for white wickedness: racist white chick and racist white cop.

When Starr and her friend Khalil are pulled over by racist white cop for a busted taillight, one thing leads to another, and – pow, pow, pow.  Khalil is shot three times in the back.  I'm left wondering why.  What was the motive?  Hatred of blacks?  Irrational fear?  We never get an answer.

Starr is an eyewitness, but she narrates the event poorly.  It's blurry to the reader – perhaps by design?  Eventually, we learn something about a hairbrush, but it's never fully explained.  The scene depicts cold-blooded murder, yet, at the same time, it feels outrageously improbable.  Unconvincing.  Cue outrage from the Hands Up, Don't Shoot crowd.

If this cop is such a monster, where's he been hiding it the past sixteen years?  There's no track record of such behavior, at least none mentioned.  And would he not have at least yelled at Khalil before shooting?  Sorry, not believable. 

Alas, national media attention descends on Garden Heights, as does Ferguson-style rioting, looting, and arson.  At one point, two white cops are dragged from their squad car and beaten.  This is an inconsequential aside that no one dwells on.  Everybody is too busy sharpening his hatred for whites.

The pressure on Starr, as an eyewitness, is mounting, from both law enforcement and Khalil's gang associates.  Intimidation ramps up.  There's a drive-by shooting.  A brick is thrown through a window.  Starr's father blames the cops.  Daddy is stuck in the 1960s, reliving Black Panther glory years, spreading dysfunctional fantasies to all in his path.

In a parallel plot, we get a measure of justice when the novel's other villain, racist white chick (blonde, obviously), gets her due.  Starr despises Hailey from the outset, and the drama predictably culminates in violence. It's okay, though; the racist b‑‑‑‑ was running her mouth.

This part feels authentic – I've seen enough Colin Flaherty to know THUG wouldn't be complete without an episode of black-on-white violence.  Later, Starr's family members revel in the attack as they enjoy it on video.  A feel-good moment.

The other noteworthy white character is Chris, Starr's boyfriend.  He's meant to redeem whites, to show they're not all terrible human beings.  His family's wealthy.  His father owns eight cars, and they have black servants.  Seriously.

Chris's role is to be as colorless and compliant as possible.  To give him a hint of humanity, he spouts mundane jokes now and again.  More than once, he feels the need to apologize on behalf of white people.

He's teased relentlessly for his whiteness, but all in good fun.  There are moments of redemption: he gets the ultimate compliment when Starr's brother declares, You ain't white, you light-skinned.  Later, Daddy, who despises Chris on sight, promotes him from White Boy to Plain-Ass Chris.  Huge!

Chris is the model for acceptable white behavior, like when he goes silent every time Cube says nigga, and Starr rightfully confirms as he should.  Grovel and submit.  Preferably, keep your mouth shut.  That's the recommended approach, I gather.  I wonder what Starr sees in this weasely little beta.

In fairness, THUG also presents an Asian character, Maya.  She's given huge virtue.  We get another feel-good moment when Maya and Starr declare a minority alliance: We minorities need to stick together.  Translation: People of color, team up to hate Whitey.  You go girl!

The plot is predictable.  Rioting continues, then goes off the charts when the grand jury delivers its verdict.  Time to burn some s‑‑‑ up, Starr's brother announces.  Daddy may lose his store, but he's spray-painted Black-owned on it, so evidently, it should be fine.

Getting in on the protest, Starr addresses a crowd from the top of a police cruiser.  They had no podium, I gather.  No surprise, her message is anti-cop, pro-Khalil.  But the evil cops cut her short.  She just can't win.

Activist lawyer Ms. Ofrah proclaims that Starr has a bright future in activism.  It's a growing industry, so I imagine that her prospects are good.  There's also redemption when everyone simultaneously breaks the no snitching rule and King (the leader of the bad gang) is hauled away by cops (good ones, I presume).  Victory!

There are many problems in Starr's community – fatherless homes, crime, drugs, depravity.  A code of silence that renders policing impossible.  Cops are not the problem.  Without cops, communities like Garden Heights disintegrate.  They cease to exist.

THUG presents a grossly distorted worldview, an extended guilt trip for white America.  Black violence and hostility are encouraged, justified, glorified.  The book, and the movie, breathes life into a toxic false narrative that festered during Obama's tenure.  In light of what actually happens on American streets, THUG's message is not only deeply dishonest, but chillingly dangerous and irresponsible.

K.M Breakey is the author of Johnny and Jamaal.