This blog post will (hopefully) go in a different direction than you think it’s going to go based on the title. I fully support the new movie The Hate U Give, but I don’t know if I’m going to be able to see it. The movie, starring the likes of Common, Anthony Mackie, Regina Hall, and Russel Hornsby, is about a young black boy being shot and killed by a white police officer. The story follows Starr, the only other witness, and the victim’s childhood friend, as she struggles with what to do.
Tracee Ellis Ross posted a video (originally from Shaun King), that supposedly is one of the very first scenes of the movie. It’s about the Talk that black families have regarding getting pulled over and dealing with cops. I’ve never had the Talk with my family, but the topics discussed are things I think about every time I drive. Keep your hands where they can be seen. Don’t reach for anything. Don’t argue or talk back. It’s almost an instinct, something so deeply rooted in myself that I don’t even know where it came from.
This movie tackles injustice, the struggles of being pulled by two different sides of yourself, racism, and many other tough subjects. I’m so glad this movie was made, and I truly hope it does well, and I hope that people decide to read the book too. But I don’t think I’ll be able to comfortably watch this movie. Some people may say that that’s the point of art, it’s supposed to make you uncomfortable and allow you to confront things you didn’t know you had to confront. But I know this story, I know this story all to well, and I know it’s an issue, I’m not denying it.
I’ve had 2 panic attacks in my life. Can’t breathe, mind-numbing, body shaking, panic attacks.
The first was in a movie theater. My brother had been swimming for a little bit and this new movie had just come out about a black swim team in Philidelphia, based on a true story. It’s called Pride. My family, along with a bunch of other families from my brother’s swim team, went to go see it in theaters. Not only was it a movie about swimming, something that doesn’t happen often at all, but it was about a black swim team based in a time when black people didn’t get much of anything. The movie takes place in 1970s Phillidelphia with flashbacks to earlier years as well. As you can imagine, there’s rampant racism. There’s a scene in the beginning, I don’t remember exactly what happens, but it’s bad. It’s at a swim meet and the main character, Jim Ellis, has been told that the other teams want to cancel the meet because they found out he’s competing. It ends in Ellis being arrested for assaulting a police officer after they try to force him to leave the meet. I haven’t watched the movie since, but I don’t even think it could’ve been that bad seeing as how the movie is only rated PG, but it was bad enough to freak me out. All of a sudden I was nauseous. I was picturing my brother or my dad, or my cousins, or even myself as the black protagonist and I found myself breathing heavily and shaking. I thought I was going to projectile vomit right into the seat in front of me My dad was sitting next to me and took me into the lobby and helped calm me down. I think he was upset too, though I’ve never asked. We eventually went back in and the rest of the movie was fine. But I think about that moment frequently. How quickly I delved into a panic at a situation that so easily could happen to me.
The second time was on a school trip to a place called Nature’s Classroom. It’s a week long (5 days at least) camping trip that 6th graders get to go on every year. The big thing everyone kept talking about was the “game” of Underground Railroad you played one night. Before you ask, yeah, it’s just as bad as it sounds. I was excited for the game, I truly thought nothing of it, and the night came and me and my friends we’re amped to play, it sounded so much fun. Running around the woods with my friends? What could be better? We walked into the mess hall and all the chairs and tables had been cleared out. We were instructed to sit in lines down the floor criss-cross-apple-sauce. They turned off the lights and told us we had to bow our heads and keep our eyes close. We were on the slave ship. They played ocean sounds, and dogs barked in the distance. They dragged chains on the ground and yelled at anyone who moved or opened their eyes. I felt dizzy. A mosquito had bitten the back of my neck and I couldn’t stop thinking about the throbbing itching pain. My heart pounded every time it sounded like a counselor or teacher got close to me. I didn’t want to get yelled at, but I couldn’t take it. I knew I was going to throw up. I thought I might pass out. I was terrified. The whole trip they told us if anything was wrong, to put your hand up in the air in a peace sign and someone would come help you. I’ve never raised my arm so fast in my life. My eyes were still squeezed shut, but my arm was in the air, waiting for someone to save me. From what? I didn’t know. At the time, I couldn’t place what was going on. I was 12. I thought I was just over tired and scared. Most of the counselors and teachers came over to me in that moment. Looking back on it, I’m realizing I was probably the only black kid that was on that entire trip, and probably one of the few black kids that had ever attended the camp. I don’t think there was a single non-white worker at the camp, and I know all the teachers who went were white. They were freaked out because the one black kid had a panic attack while playing an Underground Railroad game.
I calmed down, the game continued. The rest of the game was fun from what I can remember, basically just manhunt with a plot. I kind of think they told everyone to chill with the slavery bits to make me more comfortable, but I’ll never know. I do know that they don’t do that activity anymore though.
When the trailer came out for The Hate U Give, I first saw it on twitter. It was just a 1-minute teaser. that 1 minute sent me into a panic. I had chills, I cried, I was shaking. I knew if the movie was anything like the trailer I wouldn’t be able to watch it without getting sick to my stomach. Before writing this post, I watched a longer trailer and I was sobbing in my bed for a few minutes before I could pull myself together to write this. I truly don’t think I’d be able to handle the whole movie in its 2 hour and 12 minute runtime without having to leave the theater.
I encourage you to see it. Support this movie. Support this cast. Talk about the plot. Talk about injustice. Talk about racism. Work hard to end injustice, to end racism. Know your limits on what you are comfortable with. Push them, push them hard, but know when you can say no. This is me saying no. Maybe I’ll watch it when it comes out on DVD, so I can pause and take breaks as needed. Hopefully, I’ll watch it.