I’d like to consider this a public service announcement, one that I strongly believe is a call to action for educators, parents, and our policy makers. The Hate U Give written by Angie Thomas is a young adult novel that depicts the reality of our black youth in the United States today. The novel was released in 2017, and the movie is set to be released in mid October. Angie Thomas hits readers straight on with the gun violence and Black Lives Matter movement that many of us have only seen on television. The book has already been a success with both young and adult readers, and I expect that the conversation will only intensify with the release of the film.
As an educator and a parent, I have to tell you that upon starting the novel and reaching a pivotal moment in the book, I had to stop and put it away for a month. This weekend I finally built up my own courage to open it up and complete it. I faced internal tension trying to understand why I had to put the book down in the first place, and upon my own reflection through reading this weekend, I realized that my own guilt came into play. You see, as I sat and read about the violence that plagues many neighborhoods throughout urban America, I couldn’t help but feel guilty that I sat in the comfort of my own home, with no bars on the windows and my door wide open. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in an affluent area in San Diego, as a matter of fact Southeast San Diego is riddled with gangs, but I personally don’t feel threatened. Growing up in Barrio Logan, I, too, was sheltered from the drugs and gangs that so many of my peers and former students couldn’t seem to escape.
The guilt came from perhaps the fact that this is happening, and we continue to lose our youth of color. Our society has been colored with judgment on who these kids are. Being brave is a theme in the book, one that resonated with me and contributed to my guilt. Every day, we expect for our youth to travel to school in local war zones; many have to contemplate alternative routes for safety, which colors they wear, and worry constantly about their safety, and yet there they are in our classrooms every day. Brave. Many question their work ethic, their motivation to be in school, and yet few take time to understand their reality. If we truly understood the sacrifices that many students make to get to school everyday, would our perception of them change? Will we work harder to ensure policies are put in place to support their right to safety and their right to an education?
My guilt came from a place of understanding my own privilege. I chose to read this book, to read the experiences that black youth face, but this is a reality for them, and for that, I feel guilty. So parents, educators, policy makers, do read this book, not so you feel guilty, but so that we can all unite in action, in protecting and educating our most prized possession, our children. Parents, educators, and policy makers, when children come to you curious about what’s happening and wanting to know why, don’t ignore them—we cannot continue to act like race is an issue of the past because unfortunately, this, too, is the reality of our youth.
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