‘The Hate U Give’ Spurs Community Discussion on Racism, Police Shootings

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WaPo panel
Photo by Connie Morrison Washington Post panel members (from left) National Editor Steven Ginsberg, Deputy National Editor Lori Montgomery, National Correspondent Wesley Lowery, and National Security Correspondent Devlin Barrett speak about their investigative work into police shootings across the country.

By Connie Morrison — “The Hate U Give,” the film adaptation of one of the most discussed – and, according to the American Library Association, one of the most challenged – books of 2017 and 2018, tells the story of the police killing of an unarmed African American teen, and the traumatic fallout for a friend who witnessed the shooting.

Roseland Cinema and Entertainment Center (RCEC) sponsored a screening of the film and brought a panel of journalists from the Washington Post who had covered the topic of police shootings nationally to discuss their work. Audience members had a chance to share their own experiences and to ask questions of the panel.

National Correspondent Wesley Lowery, who covered the unrest in Ferguson following the August 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, said early in his time in Ferguson he compared in an email the situation of the riots and protests of the  police shootings to the novel “Lord of the Flies.”

“The people felt like the system is so unjust, that something so terrible had happened, and they had received no accountability for it, no recourse,” he said, which brought out chaos in the streets. “If the police don’t follow the rules, why should we as well?”

The media was initially focused on the specifics of the shootings. But what was exposed over time, as more cases were highlighted, and especially where officers were not prosecuted, was the deficit of trust with the police. “That made it easier to understand why people were so upset,” he said.

“The book and the film captures really well the depth of the anger,” said Lowery.

“It’s not just anger, it’s absolute rage,” said Pungoteague resident Malaika Mitchell. “In a domestic terrorist situation, you’re taken alive, but if you’re selling cigarettes in the street, you get killed.”

“African American people, especially boys … unarmed, are so much more disproportionately murdered (by police),” said retired physician Dr. Arthur Carter, of Nassawadox. “Until we as a people and as individuals address implicit racial bias, this stuff is going to go on and on and on.

“It’s 2019. Aren’t we all tired of this stuff?” he added, suggesting remedies. “We need restorative justice policing in this country; restorative justice prosecution in this country; restorative justice education in this country because this punitive stuff has never worked.”