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Shadow Self: "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas

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Andre Acimen once said, “Some people have an identity. I have an alibi. I have a shadow self.” This quote accurately sums up the struggle the characters face regarding their identity and how it defines them. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is about 16-year-old Starr Carter who witnesses the shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer One Fifteen. After the shooting is made a national headline both her worlds-Williamson and Garden Heights- erupt into chaos and her voice is the key to ending it. Hence, the characters all grapple with their identity because the media and society try to interpret them.

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To commence, to the media Khalil Harris was a suspect rather than a victim because of where he lived, the color of his skin, and the job he possessed. To summarize, Khalil Harris was shot by officer One-Fifteen during a traffic stop. Furthermore, the world ridiculed him with names, like gangbanger, and made the illusion that the shooting was his fault. On page 104, it states, “On the Monday night news, they finally gave Khalil’s name in the story about the shooting, but with a title added to it—Khalil Harris, a Suspected Drug Dealer. They didn’t mention that he was unarmed.” As can be seen, in chapter 16, Starr bluntly accuses the media of treating him undue and putting him on trial for his murder. Similarly, to friends, Khalil, and family Khalil was a sweet kid. Moreover, Starr remembers him fondly for his unconditional love for his mother. On page 237, it states, “No, he didn’t. Look, his momma stole some shit from King. King wanted her dead. Khalil found out and started selling to pay the debt…That’s the only reason he started doing that shit. Trying to save her.” Specifically, Khalil only had very few options to support his family so he did what he needed to do for them to survive meaning selling drugs to pay off his mom’s debt and to support his grandma. To demonstrate, from studying others you can learn who you are and who you are not by scrutinizing the morality of others and how they live their life to see if your ethics are compatible or not. Thus, whilst he is dead he struggles with how the media portrays him and how his loved ones remember him.

Additionally, DeVante has been dealt a bad hand by society because of where he comes from and the color of his skin, meaning that they have written him off as a lost cause. In short, DeVante joined the King Lords with his brother Dalvin because he didn’t have any other choice. To continue, the King Lords provided protection and family that he didn’t have so he sold drugs to be part of that. On page 238, it reiterates, “I get it. I guess I am a thug, I don’t know. I did what I had to do. King Lords was the closest thing me and Dalvin had to a family.” Namely, he was tasked with killing his brother’s murderer even though he knew the Garden Disciples would come after. Likewise, DeVante is a gang member to survive but at heart is a kid who would do anything to protect his family. Even further, he regrets not being able to have helped his brother when he is shot so he tries to get help from his mother and sister. On page 222, it informs the reader, “I stole ’bout five Gs from King…I had to get my family outta here!.. I didn’t want my momma and my sisters caught up in that. So I got them some bus tickets and got them outta town.” A clear example would be at the end of the novel he agrees to turn witness to help the Garden Heights community. This shows, that in a culture where we are bombarded with other people trying to define us, we make our own decisions by standing proud in our beliourso that iit’snot easier for others to affect our identity. In essence, DeVante did not want to be a gang member but had to keep himself and his family alive.

Equally as important, Starr feels there are two versions of herself because she constantly changing from Garden Heights Starr to Williamson Starr. In other words, Starr witnessed the death of her friend Natasha at age 10 and from there on her parents enrolled at Williamson Prep in another town. Moreover, since she goes to a different school she grew away from her friends at Garden Heights. On page 1, it suggests, “I’m not even sure I belong at this party. There are just some places where it’s not enough to be me. Either version of me.” Such as, when she is left alone at Big D’s party she feels more alienated and abandoned than before since she does not know anyone there. To enumerate, at Williamson she becomes a different person that everyone likes. In brief, the color of her skin makes her automatically cool if she does not talk about her struggles of it. On page 71, Thomas shows, “flipping the switch in my brain so I’m Williamson Starr. Williamson Starr doesn’t use slang—if a rapper would say it, she doesn’t say it, even if her white friends do. Slang makes them cool. Slang makes her ‘hood.’ Williamson Starr holds her tongue when people piss her off so nobody will think she’s the ‘angry black girl.’ Williamson Starr is approachable. No stank-eyes, side-eyes, none of that. Williamson Starr is nonconfrontational. Williamson Starr doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto.” To illustrate, she hates that she does that but uses sneakers and her backpack to express herself like Will from her favorite show- Fresh Prince of Bel-Air- does with his jacket. This is a demonstration of how other people’s opinions can lead to a lack of confidence, the constant need for approval, and becoming a people pleaser. Therefore, Starr is not fully comfortable with either version of herself but knows that as a child of color she needs them. 

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