The Hate U Give follows a young girl named Starr Carter, as she learns to navigate a world, and the systems within it, that have otherized her and those she loves as a black people. Viewers are given insight into the black experience, specifically the struggles that youth face growing up in black communities due to systemic racism.
The scene of Starr's father giving her, and her siblings the "talk" about police brutality, is particularly powerful when looking at how violence and racism pervade the everyday lives of black people in America. At the age of just twelve, Starr is taught about the unjustness of state authority and is told what to do in case a cop stops her. She is instructed to “do whatever they tell [her] to do” and to only speak when spoken to. In the larger context of the movie, the talk speaks to many themes, including that of intergenerational trauma and the contemporary Black youth experience.
Intergenerational trauma is very prevalent in the talk, especially when looking at who it’s given by. Starr’s father, Maverick, was a gang member and served time in prison before turning his life around, so, he is well versed when it comes to the discrimination within the system. Maverick is also well aware of what it's like to have to disassociate oneself from the stigma of having committed a crime, no matter how trivial the misdemeanor may be, lowering one’s chances of being employed and thus forcing them into a criminal lifestyle, because eventually, it becomes the only remaining option. As a result of these experiences, Maverick feels the necessity to instill these teachings in his children so that they do not fall victim to the same vicious cycle, or to police brutality, as with the death of Starr's friend, Khalil. Furthermore, by passing on the lesson of how to deal with cops to his kids, we see an intergenerational transmission of post-traumatic stress, how it is internalized, and how it dictates their existence.
Another theme the talk touches upon is that of the lives of contemporary black youth. Apart from these youth having to cope with the trials of adolescence like that of gaining acceptance, and finding themselves, they also have to carry the realities of their potential dehumanization through not only overcoming exoticization and micro-aggressions but also possibly being subject to racial profiling and police brutality. This forces them to adopt different coping mechanisms including the Black Panther’s teachings and for Starr, adopting the identity of the strong black woman. Additionally, Starr is forced to face whether she wants to be complacent and remain comfortable in her predominantly white school, or if it is her responsibility to bring attention to the prejudiced circumstances of her friend's murder.
Moreover, "the talk" scene's significance is renewed (time and time again) with the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement due to the unjust murders of people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, and countless others. Unfortunately, state-sanctioned violence only further emphasizes that in having to make up for racists' lack of tolerance, black people still need to caution their loved ones about how to function in their day-to-day in America.