Talk about timely. This is maybe the most relevant piece of fiction I have read. And it raised so many questions and thoughts and ideas for me. But the two words that kept coming to the surface were: Required Reading.
I like to consider myself an ally. I’m not black, I can’t really begin to understand what it’s like to be black in this country at this time. But I can try and I can be supportive and I can listen and I can walk alongside and I can protest and call for change and do my best to make change happen. All of that and… this book still made me say, “whoa.” It brought up so much that I hadn’t thought of, so many little things that happen every day that I don’t have to think about because of the color of my skin.
“It seems like they always talk about what he may have said, what he may have done, what he may not have done. I didn’t know a dead person could be charged in his own murder, you know?”
I could give 1,000 examples. But I’ll give one – an easy one because I don’t think anyone wants to read my 20 page diatribe on race relations. When Starr, Seven, DeVante, and Chris are in the car fleeing the riots and Chris asks why black people don’t have “normal” names… I cringed. I KNOW that’s not only inappropriate, but racist, for all the reasons they then proceed to discuss in the book. Now, here’s the thing… how many times have you found yourself in the discussion of “weird” names you’ve come across. I know I find myself in it a lot (as an aside, it’s mostly because of my love of “Name of the Year”). And almost every single time someone inevitably tells the tale of a friend of a friend who is a teacher or a nurse or a whatever who once encountered a girl named “Le-a.” I assume everyone knows where I’m going with this, but just in case, it’s pronounced “Ledasha.” Cue the eye roll. Not because it’s a “weird” name, but because it’s not true and it’s racist. No one knows anyone named Ledasha spelled with a hyphen instead of “dash,” and the implications and assumptions that go along with this are just… wrong (for more info: Le-a). Anyway. Why am I talking about this? Well. Let me circle back to the fact that I said I’ve had this conversation multiple times and this comes up every time. And guess how many times I have vocalized that this is an urban legend and a racist one at that? Zero. Yikes. That’s bad – in that case, I’m not an ally. I’m a bystander. The Hate U Give made me think about this little example and then made me realize how many times I should speak up but don’t because I don’t want to “make waves.” Well, what the hell good is that doing?! Basically, there’s so much more I could be doing. So much more we could ALL be doing.
So, Starr. Angie Thomas. Here’s what I have to say now: “I’ll never give up. I’ll never be quiet. I promise.”