Throughout The Hate U Give, competing loyalties test both individual characters and the communities to which they belong. Communities in the novel reveal a basic human desire for connection as well as the importance of ultimately dissolving boundaries in the fight for racial justice.
The King Lords and Garden Disciples are the most rigid examples of community in the novel. Each gang can be identified by specific colors, controls specific territories in the neighborhood, and is largely defined by the loyalty of its members (Maverick calls himself “loyal like a motha” after taking a fall for King, for example). Starr, meanwhile, cannot “understand fighting over streets nobody owns.” Maverick’s comparison between gangs and the houses of Harry Potter serves to add an element of humor and further underscore how arbitrary many of these divisions really are. “Daddy claims the Hogwarts houses are really gangs,” Starr notes. “They have their own colors, their own hideouts, and they are always riding for each other, like gangs. Harry, Ron, and Hermione never snitch on one another, just like gangbangers. Death Eaters even have matching tattoos.”
By this formulation, the police force could be viewed as a sort of gang as well. Officers’ loyalty is reflected by the fact that they close ranks around One-Fifteen following his killing of Khalil. Suggesting law enforcement is its own type of gang, is important, as it undercuts the validity of its power over marginalized communities. The police are not impartial upholders of justice, Thomas’s novel suggests, because they are more concerned with protecting their own than the community they serve.
In Garden Heights, the one thing more important than gang association is family. Starr is extremely close with her parents and siblings, and family ties inform the actions of many characters throughout the novel. Both Khalil and DeVante, for example, become associated with gangs in order to help their families. Maverick, meanwhile, leaves gang life behind after he becomes a father. Though hesitant to stand up to King, Iesha ultimately remains loyal to her children—Seven, Kenya, and Lyric—by distracting King while they escape his house. Even Carlos finally rejects the police in favor of his family by calling out One-Fifteen for his actions, despite the fact that this results in him being forced to take time off.
In the end, Thomas suggests, communities must join together if they are to defeat issues that hold everyone back. Maya creates a “minority alliance” with Starr, for example, in order to hold their white friend Hailey accountable for her prejudice. King Lords and Garden Disciplines chant side by side during protests following the indictment decision in Khalil’s case. “My anger is theirs, and theirs is mine,” Starr says, recognizing the shared emotion in this moment that brings enemies together. The ultimate bonding of King Lords and Garden Disciples represents the dissolving of boundaries in the face of a greater threat, and reveals the power of putting aside differences to work toward a better future for all. The only real sides, Thomas’s novel suggests, are those supporting oppression and those fighting to end it.
Community and Loyalty ThemeTracker
Community and Loyalty Quotes in The Hate U Give
Garden Heights has been a battlefield for the past two months over some stupid territory wars. I was born a “queen” ‘cause Daddy used to be a King Lord. But when he left the game, my street royalty status ended. But even if I’d grown up in it, I wouldn't understand fighting over streets nobody owns.
“Drugs come from somewhere, and they're destroying our community," he says. “You got folks like Brenda, who think they need them to survive, and then you got the Khalils who think they need to sell them to survive. The Brendas can't get jobs unless they're clean, and they can't pay for rehab unless they got jobs. When the Khalils get arrested for selling drugs, they either spend most of their life in prison, another billion-dollar industry, or they have a hard time getting a real job and probably start selling drugs again. That’s the hate they’re giving us, baby, a system designed against us. That’s ‘Thug Life.’”
“I knew that boy. Watched him grow up with you. He was more than any bad decision he made,” he says. “I hate that I let myself fall into that mind-set of trying to rationalize his death. And at the end of the day, you don’t kill someone for opening a car door. If you do, you shouldn't be a cop.”
Chris and Maya walk through the gate, and my stomach gets all jittery. I should be used to my two worlds colliding, but I never know which Starr I should be. I can use some slang, but not too much slang, some attitude, but not too much attitude, so I'm not a “sassy black girl.” I have to watch what I say and how I say it, but I can't sound “white.”
It would be easy to quit if it was just about me, Khalil, that night, and that cop. It's about way more than that though. It's about Seven. Sekani. Kenya. DeVante.
It's also about Oscar.
It's even about that little boy in 1955 who nobody recognized at first—Emmett.