Following a recent class discussion of Angie Thomas’ The Hate You Give, I received an email from a student wanting to know if we could revisit a death scene in the beginning of the book from the perspective of the police officer who does the shooting. Here’s part of the email:
First off, I don’t understand why the police officer is so heavily blamed for shooting Khalil. If you were in the police officer’s shoes and if you were to tell a black man (that you were already pretty suspicious of) to not move and you were to hear his car door open, would you not panic and react a similar way? That police officer clearly told him not to move and Khalil had to have known to do everything that the police says (especially since they tend to normally act more harshly towards black people). What would you do if you tell a black man (even if he wasn’t black! a man in general) not to move while you go back to your car and then hear his car door open. Not to mention that it was clearly late at night and black people are normally more difficult to see at night. So basically you just see this shadow going into his car. You have absolutely no idea what he was doing. The police officer probably thought that Khalil was going to pull out a gun or something. And then it would’ve been the police officer dead.
The student raises valid points about what takes place in the novel. (We later find out that the officer had seen something he feared was a pistol in the victim’s car. It turned out to be the handle of a hair brush.) So here’s the question: how can police manage tense situations like these in ways that prevent them from escalating to the use of deadly force?
AN ADDENDUM: Based on conversations I’ve eavesdropped in Hooper, I can tell that this post strikes a nerve. Please keep the necessity for civility in mind if you post on this topic. The student made the inquiry in the spirit of open-minded and genuine curiosity. It wouldn’t be fair to ostracize anyone for that. Remember this as well: if you can’t convince other people you’re right, you may as well be wrong. Civility in discourse will win the day more often than not.