#WoWaWildBookClub // Reader Responses – Perception

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How we view each other is the beginnings of how we treat each other and we’ve been given too many narratives of “other.” Reading the responses from the #WoWaWildBookClub family shows how people have had that light bulb moment with how people are presented to the public and how that might skew our thought process around other human beings. I hope that the responses below showcase the readiness to take back some of these narratives and dig deeper for full stories about the humans around us.

xx Chelsie


Reflect:

1. Media reports on Khalil portray him as a drug dealer and gangbanger. The interview with One-Fifteen’s father portrays One-Fifteen as a victim. In this section, Starr meets with the DA and gives her own television interview in an effort to stand up for Khalil.

On p. 288, Starr tells Mrs. Carey (the TV interviewer), “I don’t understand how everyone can make it seem like it’s okay he got killed if he was a drug dealer and a gangbaner. … It seems like they [the media] always talk about what he may have said, what he may have done, what he may not have done. I didn’t know a dead person could be charged in his own murder, you know?”


What role does news media play in shaping stories? Discuss your thoughts regarding Starr’s observation of folks seeing Khalil’s murder being “okay” if he was a drug dealer or gangbanger. Have you seen similar media portrayals of Black folks who are killed by police? What do you think about this? How can you make an effort to ensure you’re seeing all the angles of a news story? What are some steps you can take to broaden and diversify your media consumption?

Chelsie from #WoWaWild: This was such a huge take away from this story for me – media can shape perception so easily by word choice and amount of information that they give the public. It’s a huge responsibility that I think I had never quite recognized. Which, as someone who has been on TV, is shocking that I had never given it thought. This is something I explain constantly when people want the dish on someone who I was on The Bachelor with – I have to remind them that they are only getting a sliver of personality or story and that behind that there is a multi-dimensional human that is flawed AND wonderful. This was reality TV so it made sense that people would be shaped to fit a narrative, so I never thought to transfer this ideal to news media. In reading The Hate U Give, I saw Khalil get flattened from a multi-faceted, interesting, kind, child (KEY WORD CHILD) into two, ALLEGED, adjectives that are intended to paint blame on Khalil for his life either A) not being worth living or B) being the reason that he got shot – either way the portrait of Khalil in the media was there to try and make sense of a senseless act and to give the audience permission to side with one-fifteen – this practice is entirely abhorrent and incredibly dangerous. Watching this story happen through the eyes of Starr has made me feel entirely responsible for how I consume news, media and other information. I take that responsibility on wholeheartedly now, with real intention and curiosity.

Other #WoWaWildBookClub Reader Responses:

The mainstream media gets to shape the narrative as it reports on stories, any story. In the cases of Black people dying at the hands of police if they consistently focus on the negatives in a persons life then that’s all that we may see and all that we will think about when thinking about that person. Then, suddenly if that’s the only story you see in the news about Black people that’s all you know them by. That’s all you may think about when you see anyone of them. The same police force can see a white person and a Black person and treat them completely differently. An example of this from last year has recently come under a lot of scrutiny in Aurora Colorado. If the name of that town sounds familiar it’s because in 2012 a white man in tactical gear with many weapons entered a movie theater and killed 12 people, injuring 70 others. Officers arrested the man in question with no confrontation, despite the fact that he was still wearing tactical gear so genuine that he was mistaken for a police officer at first. Last August, Elijah McClain was walking home listening to music when he was confronted by police, tackled, choked out, vomitted multiple times, injected with Ketamine by paramedics, and died in transit to the hospital. This is from the same police force who has shown previously that they can successfully detain a very dangerous suspect (which Elijah was not) non-lethally.

As more and more television and print media are owned by major corporations and billionaires getting varying opinions can be difficult if you stick to traditional news sources. Luckily there are many organizations that use their social media to call-out issues that otherwise may not get a lot of coverage. Following lots of different perspectives on Instagram and Twitter, and making sure you pay attention to and read what they are posting, can be one way to get variety in your news sources, even though it is admittedly still imperfect. I try to always remind myself that there may be a side that I am missing, what part of the story is not being told? How would I have felt or reacted in a similar situation? Who can I turn to if I want to find out more? Reminding myself not to just accept the first pass or first headline I see can help keep me aware of the blinders I have on and help to see past them when I try. – Matthew

I am ashamed that I have felt less sympathy when a murder is reported and it involves a drug addict, or when a woman goes missing and it involves a hooker. I always remember feeling sorry for the parents but thinking they should have raised them better , or the person involved should have made better choices in life. That is so unfair coming from a person who has never had to make those choices. But I do feel like the media leads us in this direction by highlighting the faults. – Dayna

I think the media plays a big role in how it shapes stories. Just look at how Brock Turner was presented as a “good student, athlete, etc.” and how the rape charge would “ruin his life.” But then you see a Black person get murdered by the cops and days later suddenly all of their past transgressions are brought up against them. It’s incredibly frustrating and I’ve gotten better at recognizing it by following many different voices to get a better picture of different stories and voices. – Katie


2. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns of the dangers of a single story (in her TED Talk). She talks of the single story she read as a child; books about blonde-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned girls. She tells of the single story she held in her head that her family’s domestic workers were “poor” and could therefore be nothing else. She describes her college roommate’s single story of Africa, a homogeneous group of people characterized by poverty, war, and disease. She explains that power determines whose stories are told and how.


How does this concept of a single story connect to The Hate U Give? How does it connect to the literary world as a whole? Pop culture? Black lives and racial justice? History?


Reflect on what stories are told in our society, who gets to tell them, and what happens to these stories (and our perception of them) as a result. What can you do to avoid the single story in your life?

Chelsie from #WoWaWild: A single story is what Starr avoids with code switching throughout the book. She is worried that if she shows her true self to either part of her life, she will be generalized and labeled. She will be shoved into a category that she feels only half way in – which makes her feel like she isn’t afforded individualism and complexity. It’s something that she is conscious of always. You also see One Fifteen get the opportunity to tell a rich, complicated, human story, which grants him empathy and individualism. You see that, until Starr steps up, Khalil isn’t given this opportunity.

A single story is so dangerous, because it takes away humanity and individualism from the person being generalized. It also doesn’t provide the opportunity for a person to tell you about themselves. And in our society (television, government, magazines, news media) often the stories are told by white people, men and people with money. This is so dangerous, because this is such a narrow lens in which to view the world. I see a beautiful shift in pop culture shifting towards people of color – I am hoping that this shift continues. It gives depth to the once two dimensional depictions of miss-represented and under-represented people.

Other #WoWaWildBookClub Reader Responses:

The Hate U Give shines a light on many topics I was not and am still working to educate myself on. I feel it shows an accurate perspective of individuals growing up in a low-income area, what they see, and why they make choices that they do (i.e., joining a gang). It is refreshing to read a story from the perspective of an African American as opposed to a White leading character. It’s fascinating to read a story written two years ago that could not be more relatable to what is happening today with riots and looting. Clearly, this is not a new pattern of individuals demonstrating frustration yet we are not seeing the change that needs to take place. As an educator, I need to continue expanding my reading exploration in books that are written from the perspective of an African American and share these with my students. I have an opportunity to share the stories I find with a younger population. – #WoWaWildBookClub Reader

Honestly just in reading The Hate U Give I have realized how infrequently I read black authors. I found myself with perspective I had not known before by way of a book. I commit to continuing to read books and listening to podcasts from folx with different experiences than me. – Katie

Without Starr’s voice, Khalil gets the single story. As does One-Fifteen. Khalil dealt drugs, was in a gang, was a threat. One-Fifteen was a Good Guy and just wanted to get home to his family. He was afraid, threatened. When Starr speaks out, she presents a different story. On Tumblr, there’s the Khalil she knew– his childhood, his friends, his family. In her testimony, he is a victim. A scared kid who wasn’t a threat, was never given a chance. In her interview, One-Fifteen is a jumpy, racist cop who shot Khalil three times and kept his gun on an unarmed girl who just watched her friend die. Again.

On a meta-level, The Hate U Give represents a huge shift in YA lit toward diverse titles written by diverse authors. Slowly, very slowly, publishing is expanding representation in books (in YA and elsewhere). In 2015, 73.3% of children’s books had white main characters. The next-most represented were animals, trucks, and otherwise inanimate objects at 12.5%. African American representation sat at 7.6%, Asian Pacific at 3.3%, Latinx at 2.4%, and Indigenous at 0.9%. By 2018, things had improved… but certainly not by enough. White MCs still sat at 50%, Animals/Other was still next at 27%. African/African American (terminology changed in the intervening years) blipped up to 10%, Asian Pacific Islander at 7%, Latinx at 5%, and Indigenous at 1%. Not much better, but a step forward, at least.

I am white. I am nonbinary. I present as cis female. I am pansexual. I am middle class. I am college educated. I am able-bodied. I have anxiety and depression. I am 30. I am an atheist. I experience oppression at a number of intersections, but I also experience a great deal of privilege. It’s my responsibility to use my privilege to lift the voices of marginalized folks who don’t share that privilege. Their voices, their experiences, their truths disrupt the single story. I read widely. I follow folks who are different from me on social media. In my library work, I am very intentional about the titles I share, the authors I highlight, the recommendations I make. In areas where I hold privilege, I try to listen more than I speak.

Adichie explains that power determines whose stories are told. We must use our power to uplift the voices that would otherwise be silenced and to help dismantle the systems that would silence them. – Becks


Responses about other Resources:

I just subscribed to both podcasts today! I will begin listening to them this week. I also plan to watch both videos tomorrow while working out. Thank you! – #WoWaWildBookClub Reader

Floodlines was FANTASTIC. It offered so many first-person perspectives on what happened in the leadup to and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I’ve read a few books on the topic and knew about some of the mismanaged/racist aspects of the event, but Floodlines offered further valuable perspectives and new information I had not heard before.

When I saw Kimberly Jones’ “How Can We Win?” I knew I had to share it here. Her words are so powerful, and the way she explains the systemic oppression Black folks face — a rigged game of Monopoly — is spot on. I also love the perspective she gives on people who are looting and destroying property; it’s a perfect example of disrupting the single story. Most, if not all, of the news media I’ve seen has criticized the looting without looking deeper at the root causes of it. Floodlines touches on this, as well. In the aftermath of Katrina, white folks were “stealing to survive” and “providing for their families,” whereas Black folks were “looting” and “pillaging.”

It’s been days, maybe weeks since I watched The Kimberly Jones video, and I’m still haunted by the last lines: “They’re lucky Black people are looking for equality and not revenge.” – Becks

The resources are especially great for this section. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk was powerful and very eye-opening. I love reading Dr. Kendi and even click through that article to some of the others that he linked to. One I read was about the terrorist threat of white nationalism that politicians aren’t taking seriously (https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/04/white-terrorists-help-other-people-deny-their-prejudice/586198/) and the quote that stuck with me from that is, “In America, the endangered are seen as dangerous. Police cars intensely patrol black neighborhoods. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents move in on Latino areas. Investigators spy on Muslim houses of worship.

In America, the dangerous are seen as endangered. Leaders treat white-nationalist terror not as a broad social ill, but as a fringe problem that will become extinct on its own. ” – Matthew

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