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Vol. 2 No. 1 (2020): Early Career Americanists: An AYA Special Issue

'The World Called Him a Thug': Police Brutality and the Perception of the Black Body in Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give

March 5, 2019


Widespread police violence, often targeted at black people, has increasingly entered public debates in recent years. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, various African American young adult novelists have addressed the topic of police brutality and offer counternarratives to the stories about black victims disseminated in the media. This article illustrates how prevalent debates of Black Lives Matter are reflected in contemporary young adult fiction. To this end, the first part elucidates substantial issues that have led to the precarious position of African Americans today and to the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Drawing on theoretical concepts such as Judith Butler’s notion of "precarious lives" and Frantz Fanon’s description of the black experience in a white-dominated world, I will analyze Angie Thomas's novel The Hate U Give in view of ongoing debates about racial inequality. As I will show, the novel features striking similarities to real-world incidents of police brutality while simultaneously drawing attention to the manifold ways in which society disregards black lives and continues to subject African Americans to racial injustice.


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