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.
I think that police officers should be more exposed to situations like this in order to be able to think more clearly when on the job. Often, people will say something along the lines of “what would you have done? I would’ve thought the same thing.” The problem with that mentality is is that this is the police’s job. It is their responsibility not to overreact in these tense situations. Saying the police officer shouldn’t be blamed because the situation was tense is the equivalent to excusing a doctor for walking out a surgery crying because the patient went tachycardic. While it is tense and hard to control gut instincts, a doctor would face consequences for essentially killing their patient due to their inability to control themselves. If a police officer cannot control themselves in their line of duty, then they are not fit for the job. I am not sure what specific measures can be taken to manage the situations as they arise, but better preparation of the officers for their duty could greatly decrease the feeling of need to resort to deadly force.
I have to address the student’s email before answering the question. The officer is so heavily blamed because it was an issue of power. Khalil was not in the right for having an attitude with the officer, NO he is not, BUT is that a justifiable reason for a police officer to take his life away from him? The police officer asked him to step out of the car because he wanted to be assertive and let Khalil know he had power. With this being said, why would a police officer ask you to get out of your car for a broken taillight? That’s issue #1!
Secondly, I find the statement “especially since they tend to normally act more harshly towards black people” very interesting. Black. White. Yellow. Orange. OR BLUE. It does not matter, any officer should not be harsher on someone because of the color of their skin regardless. In addition, the statement of “black people being harder to see at night” and “you just see this shadow” is an inaccurate statement. All black people are NOT the same skin tone, meaning WE ARE NOT as black as night. We have different shades ranging from very light skin to very dark skin. In all reality, whomever stated that in there email: I find it HIGHLY offensive and ignorant for them to say. It truly displays there lack of general knowledge. Before shooting anyone, usually officers ask the person to raise their hands in the air or warn them. The officer in the BOOK did NEITHER. He shot Khalil three times to make sure he was dead.
Now referring back to the question; to manage situations such as these from escalating, it has to be a certain level of exposure to situations such as these. All black people are not a threat and that seems to be an underlying issue and stereotype among this world. Officers should not be in the mentality that they have such great power that they may take someone’s life. In addition, racism also plays apart in this as well. If you have a police officer who is not fond of black people and have an inability to tolerate black people; should they be in the line of duty? Better preparation and lack of judgement by what they eyes see should also be demonstrated. The officer killed someone because of what he “thought” he say. The same thing happened in Cleveland; a twelve-year-old was shot because the police officer thought he had a gun. Also in Texas, when an off duty cop saw a child with a pot and fired, killing him. Instead of shooting to kill? Their are milder ways of defense, and when officers shoot, do they have to murder their target? Because in the case of The Hate U Give, it was not self defense: it was murder and overkill by the officer.
first of all, these comment is ignorant. the comment that black people are dark and blend in with the night is a racist statement. i, myself, am a very light skinned person and people can still see me at night, surprising. just because our race is black DOES NOT mean that we’re literally that color. who wouldn’t be angry because they got pulled over for a broken tail light? Khalil’s attitude is understandable. he was a young black male and from what society has presented, young black males are the most likely to get shot by officers. he didn’t even open the door. khalil stuck his head in the window to check on his friend and got shot for that. how does a brush look like any type of gun? so, yes, all the blame should be on the officer. he shot to kill and not disarm.
The email didn’t mean that it wasn’t the police officers fault. The email meant that the police officer doesn’t deserve the amount of hate that he received. His decision wasn’t right or wrong. I mentioned in another part of the email that his decision wasn’t right nor wrong. Also, I know that the reader knows that Khalil is just checking on his friend when he opens the car door, but does 115 know? I do believe that the police officers need to learn how to react to these type of situations. I just also believe that citizens need to learn how to obey police officers. This entire situation would not have happened if Khalil would have just showed him license and registration. Starr even knew that what he was doing was wrong because the author literally mentioned the things Khalil was doing and how they were the wrong thing to do. Its not wrong… Also to the “it truly explains (their**) lack of general knowledge,” part, that is why I asked this question. Because I did not understand. Thank you for your response(s).
Dragging someone for their grammar does not make your argument better than their argument and is very immature especially considering your grammar is not perfect. With that being said, I have a question for you. What do you think about Starr’s dad giving her rules for when she is pulled over? You say that she knew what Khalil was doing was wrong, but she only thinks that because her dad has taught her to be overly cautious around law enforcement due to their common stereotyping and mistreatment of people from Starr’s community, Garden Heights.
How were his actions not right or wrong if he killed another human being? In addition, Khalil had the right to ask what he was being pulled over for before giving the officer his license and registration. Thank you for correcting my error in my post, but that does not justify your reasoning or the amount of ignorance administered within your email. If you were trying to gain more knowledge, then instead of stereotyping black people as shadows then you should’ve been more respectful and asked your question in a better format. SO again, I say the officer was wrong for taking Khalil’s life over a broken tail light and you were wrong for making that statement about black people.
I feel that both Khalil and officer 115 were in the wrong, Khalil shouldn’t have moved, but the officer shouldn’t have fired his gun. As an officer, they should always try to think their action through, while stilling keeping the situation as calm as possible. Khalil sudden movement, frightened the officer, but this doesn’t justified the officer’s action. If the officer’s first instinct is to fire his gun, then is he really cut out for the job?
Thank you Dr. Easterling and students for allowing me to participate in this very educational and worthwhile discussion. Some students shared with me the current dialogue regarding “The Hate You Give,” and I thought I would chime in after having been invited to do so in past conversations.
From the original email, there is one glaring point that does obtain the focus that it should. In my opinion it is significant in this scenario and in our society as a whole, and is worthy of mentioning here. I hope that my discussion adds another perspective and most importantly leads to critical thinking and empathy!
The sentence segment, “… if you were to tell a black man (that you were already pretty suspicious of)…”
This line in my opinion speaks to an underlying issue in this scenario and in many scenarios in our country that unfortunately many refuse to even acknowledge, let alone address. This factor is important, as “implicit bias,” or prejudices and biases that we hold unconsciously, can manifest in many ways. It can be seen in education, the world of work, and our justice system.
The sentence highlighted alludes to the idea that the police officer was already suspicious of the young man because he was Black/African American. Fears that police officers hold without knowing it can manifest in ways that literally put the lives of people, in this case African American males, in jeopardy. It is feasible that inherent biases can lead to fears, that can then lead one to interpret a host of normal non-threatening factors (movement, brush handles, etc.) in a way that would make them more apt to use deadly force. This is further validated by the outcomes of other police involved cases that involve non-African Americans who make overtly threatening moves while armed, yet their lives are not taken (https://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/8-white-people-who-pointed-guns-police-officers-and-managed-not-get-killed). The argument that an individual should have listened and they would not have had their life taken is challenged through the outcomes of several cases that show African American males doing exactly what police say and still getting harmed or killed (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXfyk2IxOX4). Again, could implicit bias play a role? If so, and can it be mitigated?
I am glad you asked! Implicit biases can be overcome by:
1. Acknowledging that unconscious biases exist (Can’t fix what you won’t acknowledge)
2. Increase awareness of the “conscious” biases that we all possess
3. Avoid the fallacy of “colorblindness”
4. Take on the perspective of the out-group member (empathize)
5. Build “meaningful” relationships with those who are culturally dissimilar (how many of us have invited a culturally dissimilar person to our home for dinner
6. Take healthy doses of humility (The more convinced of how objective we are, the more likely biases are to creep in)
For those interested in testing their own implicit bias, Harvard has an ongoing study where one can participate. (https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html)
I agree with Ashley. Sure Khalil should not have moved from the where the officer left him, but that doesn’t give the officer the right to shoot him in the back THREE TIMES. Also, you said “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.” First, it is hard to see anyone in the dark… not just African Americans. No one glows in the dark, no matter how light your skin is during the day. Second, the officer said nothing before he shot Khalil. I can’t say how the situation would have unfolded if he had said something but I can say that in any situation if communication happens there would be less gray area to assume what either person’s intention is. Lastly, apparently, it wasn’t that dark outside since the officer could see him clearly enough to shoot him and not his shadow…
The entire point of being a police officer is to serve this country and keep people safe. Being a police officer is a dangerous job and one can never fully prepare for all possible scenarios, but as a trained and certified police officer you are supposed to know how to handle yourself under pressure. I’m quite aware that in certain situations things may climax easily and lead to death, yet that does not make it right. In this case, I can’t find a reason where the police shouldn’t be blamed for killing a teenage boy. To my understanding, he (Khalil) was told not to move but he moved anyways. In my opinion, he most likely shouldn’t have moved if that was asked of him BUT that should not have caused him his life. Another problem in this scenario is the “that you were already pretty suspicious of part.” This is what’s wrong with the country regarding African Americans especially. This presumed suspicion can make one act a different way regardless if they try to deny it or not.
(Side note: Being that is it late at night and most likely dark is anyone just easy to see? OK. I disagree with another statement made: “This entire situation would not have happened if Khalil would have just showed him license and registration.” Philando Castile attempted to show a police officer his information asked for while informing the police officer that he had a weapon, yet where is he now? Dead.)
In order for any police officer to understand what to do in that situation they have to be trained correctly. My father is a police officer and he has told me in the past about the virtual reality training that he has to go through every couple of months to help prevent situations such as the one in the book from happening. The officer could have yelled at the boy and warned him about the consequences. He could have said something along the lines of, “Stop or I will shoot,” call for back up, or take cover behind his car if he was that frightened. It is obvious that the officer made multiple mistakes leading up to the incident. First of which is that it is an officer’s responsibility to not be fearful under any situation. If a police officer is to be scared they should know how to control themselves so they can have control of any situation. Also, it is to my knowledge that an officer is not supposed to take their gun out of the holster unless they see a gun or are absolutely in fear for his or her life. The police officer made the mistake of pulling his gun out first. While it does very on where you work, most police officers carry a taser gun. Therefore, if he was carrying one he should have used the gun as a last resort. There are many different ways that that incident should have happened or could have happened if it weren’t for the mistakes that the officer made. The officer should not have been as reckless and should have done a lot of things differently. It is obvious that police officers need to have better training to determine whether they are even adequate enough for the job even if the city sees little crime because the training will make officials prepared in any future situations.
Firstly, I just wanted to say I myself have not read this book, but the responses it has triggered from students who have read it are ones of strong emotion. This book addresses a serious topic that has plagued the conscience of our nation for years. It seems to me here, that both the police officer and Khalil were at fault here. Khalil, for disobeying the officer, and the officer himself, for immediately jumping to the conclusion that Khalil was in possession of a weapon. In such cases, more caution should be exhibited: the officer should have been certain that it was a gun first, as much as possible. Khalil should have probably stayed still, and if her ended to move, should have done it as subtly as possible, so as not to alarm the officer. The overall killer in this situation is presumption. Jumping to conclusions can cause nothing but chaos and bloodshed in scenarios like this.
Overall, I really liked the book. It ended with Starr and her family rebuilding Big Mav’s store. The activism does not stop for Starr, and it does not stop for us. Black people have come a long ways but have a longer ways to go. That is why it is our primary duty to engaged the minds of the Haileys across the world to persuade them what they are doing is wrong; they should change their ways and thinking in order to combat everything associated with racism.
Honestly I think that the police officer did nothing wrong and was just fearing for his life. If the man had complied he would still be alive. I think that also instead of guns, police officers should be issues tasers or tranquilizers to make sure any situation resolves in an unconscious suspect instead of a dead one. This would allow for less deaths overall and all in all would decrease gun violence. Secondly, I believe that if that doesn’t work, police officers should be trained to shoot at body parts that aren’t deadly to suspects but disable them for the time being like the leg. This would also help in decreasing gun deaths.
I disagree with the fact that the police officer did nothing wrong and was just fearing for his life, because there are other ways to approach this situation rather than using the gun. If he was afraid, then it would have been proper to calm down and evaluate the situation at hand. While you could say that what if the man was armed and there was not time, the officer could have made the decision to tell the man to get out of the car. If the man was carrying something, then the police officer should respond to it appropriately. Yet, just using the gun on the basis of being afraid that something MIGHT be wrong, is not right at all.
I honestly believe that officers should be more observing before reacting in these situations. Most shootings/killings that are performed by officers, particularly the shooting and killing of a black male, happen because officers react before actually making sure their surroundings are clear. If he had seen what APPEARED to be a gun, him as the officer being in charge at the moment could’ve just asked Khalid to step outside the car and searched it himself to be sure. I’m sure they’re precautions that have to be taken before an officer can perform a search, but i’m sure it wouldn’t have taken much st the moment if it was as severe as it seemed to have been. It was a stereotypical act. All black males are harmful in some manner to society. And in response to the student’s email, you have to step outside of the vague thoughts in situations like this. How do you think Khalid felt at the time? Knowing that these types of things happen ALL THE TIME to black males when being pulled over by officers. We don’t know his motive as to why he moved when the officer asked him not to, neither do we know why he had an attitude with the office, but the hostility may have come from him knowing how officers act towards black males. Nothing he could have said nor done was worth his life being taken away from him, period.