A Muddled Identity in The Hate U Give (Essay Sample)


No one wants to be pulled between two worlds. There is so much that comes with it, the exhaustion of changing so often, the sadness that hiding a part of one’s self brings, and the internal conflict the individuals live with. Yet, this is the experience of many, especially minorities, who have to hide and change parts of themselves to fit into each of their different worlds. Non-confirmation can mean discrimination and prejudice, so people lose their way between the two identities. Starr Carter, the protagonist of Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, experiences changing identities every day and the uneasiness that comes with it. For the duration of the novel, Starr is lost between her two identities and is caught between “Williamson Starr” and “Garden Heights Starr”. Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give illustrates the importance of one's identity through Starr code-switching and acts of discrimination throughout the novel.

Starr’s constant code-switching throughout the novel demonstrates The Hate U Give’s theme of true identity. To illustrate, Starr code-switches to avoid being stereotyped despite her hatred for it. Starr changes into “Williamson Starr” whenever at her predominately white school and lists the things that Williamson Starr can and cannot do, from forbidden slang to necessary approachability, and ends with, “Basically, Williamson Starr doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto. I can’t stand myself for doing it, but I do it anyway” (Thomas 71) . Most of the “don'ts” of Williamson Starr are stereotypically black mannerisms, so Starr steers clear of them to not risk being seen as “ghetto”. Things that Starr would normally say are prohibited and she hides who she truly is in an attempt to fight racial stereotypes. Of course, Starr does not enjoy the act of code-switching but does it anyway so that she can be accepted by the Williamson kids. However, constant code-switching soon leads to confusion. When Maya and Chris, her Williamson friends, arrive at Seven’s party, Starr panics and thinks, “I should be used to my two worlds colliding, but I never know which Starr I should be,” and admits, “ S*** is exhausting,” (Thomas 357). Consequently, Starr’s code-switching has left her confused about who Starr truly is. Code-switching disrupts one's sense of identity by splitting one’s desires, and in Starr’s case, she doesn't know whether to be herself or be Williamson Starr. Ultimately, Starr’s code-switching causes plenty of internal conflicts, displaying the theme of the significance of identity.

Thomas displays the importance of true identity through acts of discrimination in the novel. A major act of discrimination is when Maverick Carter, Starr’s dad, is searched and pinned for no reason by two officers. After an argument with Mr. Lewis, a fellow business owner, 2 police officers question and pin Maverick. During the interrogation, Starr thinks to herself, “He hasn’t looked at Mr. Lewis yet. I wonder if it’s because Mr. Lewis isn’t wearing an NWA T-shirt. Or because there aren’t tattoos all over his arms. Or because he’s not wearing somewhat baggy jeans and a backwards cap” (Thomas 193). Because of Mav’s appearance, the officers are discriminating against him . They see him as a “gangster”,  therefore a threat,  and are only stopping him because of their stereotypes. Even when other characters tried to explain what was going on, the officers still pursued their harassment. Maverick had not done anything wrong but visually fit the role of someone who would cause trouble, hence illustrating discrimination. Another example of discrimination is when Hailey justifies Khalil’s death. Starr and Maya ask for an apology for the racism they have experienced from Hailey, but she instead responds with, “He was a drug dealer and a gangbanger, somebody was gonna kill him eventually” (Thomas 341).  Hailey refuses to see Khalil as anything more than a drug dealer and does not bother to understand the person Khalil was. To Hailey, Khalil is not a complex human being with emotions, he is just a gangbanger.  Given these facts, The Hate U Give’s theme of identity is shown through the discrimination several characters face.

In conclusion, Starr’s acts of code-switching in a society that is against her and the discrimination faced by many portrays Thomas’s message of staying true to one’s self in The Hate U Give. Starr hides her “blackness” to defy stereotypes but loses her sense of identity in the process. Starr does not want to be discriminated against because of the way she acts and the colour of her skin, as so many people around her have been. Some people refuse to see past the stereotypes that cloud their judgement, like Hailey or the law enforcement, and Starr does not want to be a victim of that. At the end of the novel, Starr realizes that she does not want to keep up with being Williamson Starr or Garden Heights Starr. Starr just wants to be Starr.

 

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