Self-Actualization in The Hate U Give
I finally had a chance to watch the film The Hate U Give; it absolutely blew me away. For a longtime 2Pac fan, I knew the film was going to special, but I didn’t expect it to produce emotional waves that are comparable to a tempestuous storm rocking a rackety, makeshift sailboat; that was how vulnerable I felt. The film followed the story of a young African American girl named Starr, who was caught between two worlds, wanting desperately to fit into both. The result was a facade, which oscillated between the different contexts. But in her hero’s journey, at the point of crisis, when a man who should’ve been protecting both of them murdered her friend, Starr realized that her only real option was authenticity, to become who she really was.
I spent most of the film crying, trying to understand how it’s so easy for one group of people to dehumanize another, and to cause them so much pain. I suppose it’s easier for me to empathize with the film’s characters since I come from humble beginnings, but I can’t imagine the subjectivity of those who hold their heads in the sand, refusing to acknowledge the systemic racism inherent in a criminal justice system that continues to reinforce the idea that due process only belongs to a selected few.
The film namesake is the acronym T-H-U-G-L-I-F-E, standing for ‘The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone’. The phrase, created by Tupac Shakur, means that one’s environments shapes their character, and the hate one gives to children is returned to their community, thus perpetuating trauma. And we sustain it in its multiple forms, through abuse and avoidance, the latter stemming from an unwillingness to understand.
Most of you will recall the assault of Rodney King, and the arguments which attempted to absolve the perpetrators of their guilt. They called King a deviant and a thug, implying that, in some way, his beating was inevitable. We’ve quickly forgotten about Germany in the 1930s and all of the slurs which were hurled at Jewish people before and during their deportations to their own graves. When we shine the light on the victims, we implicitly perpetuate a racism which teaches of the two main classes of people: the human and the savage; that regardless of how we conceptualize Justice, the other will never deserve it; and that those whom we deem as bad, deviant, and criminal become so through their own accord, without contributing environments.
While it’s easy for us to empathize with members of our tribes, the message of the movie was clear: We refuse to allow ourselves to feel for others. Then, we ask ourselves why we can’t live in harmony, why others “choose” to riot and cause chaos. 2Pac once illustrated what it was like for poor black people trying to survive, trying desperately to help us understand. At first, one knocks on the door of the one who has, begging, “We are hungry, please let us in.” Then, the knocks and cries become louder, as the rest of America turns its back, scolding those in need for their own predicaments; so, eventually the knocks evolve into aggression and the doors are broken down.
Pac gave us a warning; he told us that if we continued to sustain a system which hindered social and economic mobility, which blamed those who couldn’t climb out of their own collective pits of hell, the doors would eventually be broken down. Because history teaches us the same lesson as taught by human psychology: One can only be nice for only so long.
Thus, the film presented a girl who, despite her longing for acceptance, instead sought to fight for a higher a value. It was evident that Starr arrived at the point of maturity which eschews social rewards for the sake of inner peace. Although few and far between, there are those who prefer the ability to look into the mirror over material wealth and social status. Those individuals answer a higher calling, thus their roles as the catalysts for social and political revolution.
In his highly acclaimed book, Man’s Search for Meaning, holocaust survivor and existential psychotherapist, Viktor Frankl, noted that “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Starr exemplified that principle, highlighting the illusion of comfort while teaching us that our true purpose was to learn that we could overcome suffering through choice; and hers was activism.
In essence, Starr found meaning in her suffering, or as Nietzsche would have noted, a why to live in order to bear the how. Frankl, who epitomized resilience and strength noted that, in the concentration camp, he and his comrades learned that:
It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.
Starr and Viktor both learned what the rest of us ought to, acknowledging their inescapable duties to stand up against injustice. In the concertation camp, Frankl fought back against his environment and his suffering, choosing to overcome the pressures of his psyche which attempted to pull him toward self-centeredness and sadism, choosing life instead of undergoing a spiritual death.
In the aftermath of the various beatings and shootings, people across the country have chosen to stand up against a tyranny seldom recognized as such, this proving that within each of us is a seed of everything that we could ever be. Despite the most harrowing circumstances, all of us can become better than we are. Starr Carter and Viktor Frankl are our templates, persistently presenting us with the answers to the questions which life continues to demand that we answer.
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