Many books get challenged every year due to the presence of sexual activity, the use of underage drinking, drugs, homosexuality, religion, and profanity. This type of content present in different types of writing in public schools is pushed to be banned or prohibited from students by the students’ parents. Censorship in public schools has become an epidemic that separates parents and school educators due to the interference of the education of students. The novel, The Hate U Give, includes narcotics usage, police violence, and racism. Parents have taken it into their accountability to restrict their children from learning due to “maturity levels”. In our society, teenagers are sheltered from real-life situations as seen in The Hate U Give, which could potentially be learning experiences in their eyes.
Many adults do not perceive information in learning materials as eye-opening, but rather view these topics as too mature for a younger audience. According to Richard Peck, “Parents are terrified of the world their children are growing up in”(Goodale). Adults are trying to lead teenagers down a safe path, not wanting to expose their child’s mind to the real world. What adults are not acknowledging is that teens are exposed to these topics almost every day in the society that they are growing up in. Many books get challenged each year in high schools around the world in an attempt to protect the innocence of the readers. Although many of the challenges recorded have good intentions, they tend to be blown out of proportion. Banning books is not going to shut out individuals from certain knowledge and prevent them from making decisions and mistakes. These books are making teens aware of life from another perspective. Parents are taking away the right of children to choose what they can and cannot read based on what is included in the learning materials.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was published in January of 2017. This novel won many awards and spent over eighty weeks at the top of the New York Times bestseller list (Canfield). Along with these remarkable awards, it also found its spot on the 2017 list of Top Ten Most Challenged Books from The American Library Association (Banned Book Highlight). The Hate U Give is a story about an African-American sixteen-year-old girl named Starr Carter. Starr lives in Garden Heights, which is a black neighborhood in a poverty-stricken area. She attends an all-white, high-end private school called Williamson Prep. Throughout this novel she finds herself struggling with balancing her life between these two opposite worlds.
At the beginning of the novel, Starr and her friend Kenya attend a party in Garden Heights. During this party Starr finds herself reconnecting with an old friend named Khalil Harris. Gunshots nearby break their conversation and they soon find their way home in Khalil’s car. The car ride gets interrupted by unexpected flashing blue and red lights. Khalil is very confused about why he had been pulled over, so he began to question the white male cop. Officer One-Fifteen directs Khalil to step out of the vehicle and to not move; remembering Starr is still in the vehicle, he opens the door to check on her. Khalil then grabs a hairbrush from inside the car. While making eye contact with Khalil, Starr witnesses her friend fall to the ground from a gunshot from Officer One-Fifteen. Starr watches her friend take his last breath, dying in the middle of the street. Throughout the rest of the novel, Starr struggles through her journey in receiving justice for Khalil and the rest of the black community. The Hate U Give is centered around racism and interferences with police brutality (“The Hate U Give”).
This book is based on a true story, and in our society, today incidents like this have proven themselves to be more prevalent. Angie Thomas’s life portrays the character Starr in her novel. Thomas grew up in a poor neighborhood while attending a private Christian college. During this time, she found herself in the same position Starr was in; she was struggling with living two separate lives. The death of Oscar Grant, an unarmed African-American man, affected her community. Oscar was shot by an officer in California and many thought that he “deserved it”. Hearing people talk about this instance angered Thomas, so she channeled her anger and used that energy to write her story (Author Angie Thomas).
Thomas based the title of her story off of rapper Tupac’s tattoo that reads “THUG LIFE”. Many do not believe his tattoo has a meaning behind it, but in fact it is an acronym that stands for “The Hate You Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody”. Tupac summarised this as “what society feeds into youth has a way of affecting us all” (Author Angie Thomas). His words hold a lot of truth if we continue to raise children in our environment today as it is, nothing is ever going to change. They grow up thinking these circumstances, like racism, are okay in our society because we never change our actions toward these topics. If we do not change how we react, events like these are going to be a recurring cycle.
It was brought to attention by a student’s parent to the school district of Katy, Texas that the narcotic usage and vulgar language in The Hate U Give should not be available for students to read for summer reading(Canfield). Outraged by this decision a highschool student, Ny’ Shira Lundy, started a petition to retrieve their rights and have the option to access the book. Lundy retrieved 4,000 signatures and accomplished her goal to bring the book back into the libraries of the Katy district. While this accomplishment made it better, it did not fix the problem completely. In order to access The Hate U Give through the schools, you must have a parent sign a permission slip (Gomez).
Angie Thomas heard this news and decided to reach out to the community of Katy in a tweet. Thomas expressed that “you’re basically telling the kids of the Garden Heights of the world that their stories should not be told” (Locke). During an interview, Anne Strainchamps explains that she should not have to filter the content when this is how our society talks. Thomas then explains that “there are ninety-three F words in the book, but there were 936 police killings this year alone” (Author Angie Thomas). People are overlooking the theme of this story while judging the subject matter. By banning this novel, you are not shielding students from any information that they have yet to acquire. The only thing adults are preventing students from is the ability to share their stories. Voices like Starr’s need to be heard, and they should not be afraid to express their emotions.
Another instance The Hate U Give has faced took place in South Carolina due to the disapproval of police brutality. Disagreeing with the author’s “anti-police” message, officers of the Charleston-area Fraternal Order of Police chapter haven taken it to their consideration and want this book to be taken off of Wando High School’s reading list. Members of Tri-County Lodge number three have yet to read The Hate U Give, but they are still trying to remove it from student’s rights. Many of the officers believe that this novel is teaching teens to hate officers, which is not Thomas’ goal (Bowers). The theme of The Hate U Give is racism and injustice, not abominating police forces.
In many perspectives, this book is an eye-opener to teens and can be used as a learning experience. Reading this book helps students understand that our world is not perfect. Racism is an everyday occurrence in our society and shows how easily people can be victimized. In our world we often find ourselves stereotyping people of different races, which causes them to be treated differently. This material should be intended and taught in schools around our nation to young adults because the message is very powerful. We should be taught about racism at a young age so we can learn to recognize it and understand that it is unacceptable. It is good to hear events from different perspectives, especially one of the biggest problems in our world today. This book helps readers see from a different viewpoint by helping spotlight the Black Lives Matter movement.
Many believe that without the knowledge contained in reading these books that are being challenged in schools, there will be multiple students at a loss in situations that they could have easily read about and talked to with a teacher or adult. Parents believe that the world is a place that adolescents know nothing about, but in school, we find out a lot of things that are usually hidden from us by our parents or other adults. These things are usually uncomfortable to talk about, which is why many think that it terrifies parents to know about certain things that are happening in the world. It is shown that it would be helpful with the guidance of a teacher to discuss these types of things written in censored books to get a view of what is right and wrong.