The Hate U Give is a film exploring the life of Starr Carter, a young teen existing in the space between two contradicting worlds. Living in a disadvantaged neighbourhood, but attending a mostly white prep school. Following the police shooting of her childhood best friend, she navigates the choices of doing what’s right versus what’s easy.
Police brutality towards the black population has sparked huge campaigns demanding justice and accountability globally: Black Lives Matter, Colin Kaepernick taking a knee, films similar to The Hate U Give. In the UK, racism is still disputed. We are sold the idea that things are much better here, than in the US. That institutionalised racism is ‘An American Problem’. But institutional corruption and systematic abuse of power is, by no means, mutually exclusive to the US. Historically, the oppression of Black British individuals is very apparent, but why is it neglected by British media?
In 1993, Stephen Lawrence’s unlawful murder has been one of the most tragic events in British history. The neglect and laziness in the prosecution of his killers, was the first major public exposure to the infrastructure of the institution.
In 2011, Mark Duggan was shot and murdered by police in Tottenham, triggering the 2011 Tottenham riots. Following a public inquest which went on for 3 years, the courts found that Duggan was ‘lawfully killed’ by armed police. This has since since been appealed in September 2018, without success.
In 2015, Sheku Bayoh, a black man, was killed during an aggressive arrest, where he was pinned down and mounted by four officers, over a minor dispute. The post mortem evidence suggested he died of asphyxia during the arrest. No one was held accountable.
In 2016, Sarah Reed; a black woman, was found dead in her cell in Holloway Prison. In her experience with the institution prior to this, she was sexually abused in a Mental Health institute, and brutally beaten up by a police officer following a false accusation of shoplifting. After the assault was caught on camera, Metropolitan Police Constable James Kiddie was charged with common assault rather than a more severe offence.
These examples are just 4 of many. Over 1500 people have died in/following police custody since 1991, 500 of which were either Black of Asian. Yet not a single officer has been held accountable.
Documentation of these ruthless incidents have allowed for visibility in mainstream media, but who’s responsible for the lack of visibility in the UK? In the US, the majority of these cases have involved police misuse of a handgun; in the UK, police don’t carry guns on regular duty. But British history has proven that they don’t require a gun to commit murder.
To summarise, films such as The Hate U Give are important, exposure is the catalyst for change. But it’s important to note the impact social media has had on these situations. Without current technology, these tragedies would not have been documented and exposed to mainstream media channels. Campaigns such as Black Lives Matter gained its global momentum because of Twitter and it’s use of hashtags. British media and news outlets have a responsibility to bring awareness to these incidents. Criminals must be held accountable for their actions; whether they work within the institution or not. But in the given circumstances, we cannot underestimate the power we carry in our pockets. In times where mainstream media fails us, it’s imperative to use social media to be vocal about injustice.