The paper fluttered out of my Bible one morning.
I had written the following quote on it:
You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.
William Wilberforce spoke those words to Parliament in 1789 as he told of the horrors of the slave trade.
The quote fit perfectly with the book I was reading, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. My friend Shannon had recommended it, and midway through she asked what I thought of it.
“It’s a brutal view into a world that I don’t know,” I told her.
And it is.
I grew up in a white town, attended a white school, had white friends. There’s nothing intentionally racist about that; it’s just a fact. Small upstate New York towns were predominantly white in the 60s and 70s.
At my father’s birthday party, a woman, while looking at one of his old yearbooks, said to me, “This is fascinating.”
“What?” I asked.
“His high school had two choirs — one white, one black,” she said.
I looked at the yearbook — the 1947 Cobbonian from Morristown High School. One page did feature two choirs: the Spiritual Choir and the Madrigal Choir.
The reverse side of the page featured the A Cappella Choir and the Training Choir, both of which were integrated — just barely — with less than a handful of people of color participating in either one.
“We’ve come a long way, haven’t we,” I said to the woman looking at the yearbook. She smiled and nodded.
But we still have a long way to go.
For the breadth of Angie Thomas’s book, I was allowed to stand in the shoes of a 16 year-old African-American girl, who grew up in the projects, who saw two friends gunned down, and who ultimately learned that her voice is her most powerful weapon.
I thought about the book this weekend when I saw the news coverage of students across the country participating in March for Our Lives Rallies against gun violence. They used words — and silence (after reading the names of the 17 students who died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, student Emma Gonzalez stood in silence on the stage for 6 minutes and 20 seconds, the amount of time it took the gunman to kill them).
I’ve read solutions to the gun problem that range from arming teachers, to supplying buckets of rocks in classrooms, to having therapy dogs in schools. Some sound disastrous; others seems inefficient and ridiculous; still others might work. I don’t know what the answer is —
But I do know it begins with talking and listening.
It begins with standing in the other person’s shoes, no matter what the issue is, if only for a moment.
After that, I can choose to look the other way.
But I can’t say I didn’t know.
I’m glad I read The Hate U Give.
5 thoughts on “The Hate U Give”
It is a book I still think about, like it is in me and I have to reckon with it, all the time. I’m so glad you read it, that you enjoyed it (if “enjoyed” is the right way to say it). And yes, talking and listening and letting someone’s story be true.
Thanks for pointing it out.
Those marchers this weekend- it gives you hope for the future at a time when a lot seems hopeless.
Thank you for pointing me to this book. I will find it and read it. Thank you also for mentioning William Wilberforce who really was the father of change even though that change did not even begin to become effective for far too many decades. 1789 must have been quite a year … the French Revolution, the first of many there but that which began the march towards freeing the common man took place that year too. Imagine how all those monumental moments would be broadcast now? We have the tools, we have the understanding and we will overcome. I say we, because although I am not American, I know that change is needed the world over. That slavery still exists in Europe – not black slaves but slaves nonetheless …. we need to come together under this single sky and we need to back those that started this new revolution to the hilt. The young are our leaders and it is for us to wisely follow. As ever this is a wonderful piece and I thank you for it, Sally 🤗
Be forewarned — the book is written from the standpoint of a 16 year old girl, and its intended audience is probably closer to that age demographic. It was a good read, though, and one I’ll ponder for some time.
Isn’t it funny how the winds of change blow in gusts like that? I think we’re due for some blustery weather. The world is a mess. Anyone who thinks that what happens in the rest of the world doesn’t affect them deceives themselves.
Although it will be uncomfortable I welcome the storm. It will come and there will be change. It is needed and long overdue. As to the book – I am happy to read something aimed at a younger demographic. I constantly defend the young so books written in their voice should be embraced!
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