“Once you’ve seen how broken someone is, it’s like seeing them naked—you can’t look at them the same anymore”

Affiche pour un rassemblement en hommage à Trayvon Martin, 17 ans, tué le 26 février 2012 à Sanford, Floride source

Black lives matter
When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me.
One was the usual birds and bees. Well, I didn’t really get the usual version. My mom, Lisa, is a registered nurse, and she told me what went where, and what didn’t need to go here, there, or any damn where till I’m grown. Back then, I doubted anything was going anywhere anyway. While all the other girls sprouted breasts between sixth and seventh grade, my chest was as flat as my back.
The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me.
Momma fussed and told Daddy I was too young for that. He argued that I wasn’t too young to get arrested or shot.
“Starr-Starr, you do whatever they tell you to do,” he said. “Keep your hands visible. Don’t make any sudden moves. Only speak when they speak to you.”
I knew it must’ve been serious. Daddy has the biggest mouth of anybody I know, and if he said to be quiet, I needed to be quiet.

I’ve seen it happen over and over again: a black person gets killed just for being black, and all hell breaks loose. I’ve tweeted RIP hashtags, reblogged pictures on Tumblr, and signed every petition out there. I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down.
Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak.

Funerals aren’t for dead people. They’re for the living.
I doubt Khalil cares what songs are sung or what the preacher says about him. He’s in a casket. Nothing can change that.

Daddy once told me there’s a rage passed down to every black man from his ancestors, born the moment they couldn’t stop the slave masters from hurting their families. Daddy also said there’s nothing more dangerous than when that rage is activated.

“Khalil said it’s about what society feeds us as youth and how it comes back and bites them later,” I say. “I think it’s about more than youth though. I think it’s about us, period.”

Life in the ghetto
Guys in their freshest kicks and sagging pants grind so close to girls they just about need condoms. My nana likes to say that spring brings love. Spring in Garden Heights doesn’t always bring love, but it promises babies in the winter. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of them are conceived the night of Big D’s party.

People around here don’t have much, but they help each other out as best they can. It’s this strange, dysfunctional-as-hell family, but it’s still a family. More than I realized until recently.

But even if I’d grown up in it, I wouldn’t understand fighting over streets nobody owns.
Living in black and white
I just have to be normal Starr at normal Williamson and have a normal day. That means flipping the switch in my brain so I’m Williamson Starr. Williamson Starr doesn’t use slang—if a rapper would say it, she doesn’t say it, even if her white friends do. Slang makes them cool. Slang makes her “hood.” Williamson Starr holds her tongue when people piss her off so nobody will think she’s the “angry black girl.” Williamson Starr is approachable. No stank-eyes, side-eyes, none of that. Williamson Starr is nonconfrontational. Basically, Williamson Starr doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto.
I can’t stand myself for doing it, but I do it anyway.

But that moment he grabbed my hands and I flashed back to that night, it’s like I suddenly really, really realized that Chris is white. Just like One-Fifteen. And I know, I’m sitting here next to my white best friend, but it’s almost as if I’m giving Khalil, Daddy, Seven, and every other black guy in my life a big, loud “fuck you” by having a white boyfriend.

I can’t lie, he’s kinda cute. Hey, just ’cause I have a boyfriend doesn’t mean I can’t look, and as much as Chris drools over Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, and Amber Rose, I dare him to get mad at me for looking.
On a side note—my boyfriend clearly has a type.

I swallow and whisper, “I don’t know that Khalil.”
It’s a betrayal worse than dating a white boy. I fucking deny him, damn near erasing every laugh we shared, every hug, every tear, every second we spent together. A million “I’m sorry”s sound in my head, and I hope they reach Khalil wherever he is, yet they’ll never be enough.
But I had to do it. I had to.

Teen love
I can’t lie, he’s kinda cute. Hey, just ’cause I have a boyfriend doesn’t mean I can’t look, and as much as Chris drools over Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, and Amber Rose, I dare him to get mad at me for looking.
On a side note—my boyfriend clearly has a type.

By not saying “I” before “love you,” he’s making it more casual. Seriously, “love you” and “I love you” are different. Same team, different players. “Love you” isn’t as forward or aggressive as “I love you.” “Love you” can slip up on you, sure, but it doesn’t make an in-your-face slam dunk. More like a nice jump shot.
Two minutes pass. I need to say something.
Love you too.
It’s as foreign as a Spanish word I haven’t learned yet, but funny enough it comes pretty easily.
I get a wink emoji in return.

“I don’t know what’s worse,” Hailey says. “The fact that they’re going soft on them because they’re girls, or that the girls are letting them go soft on them.”

Know who you are
Sometimes the shit just happens, and one day you realize there’s a leader among you and your friends and it’s not you.

I knew there was a possibility I was short—everybody else was taller than I was—and I could call myself short if I wanted. It became an uncomfortable truth when Seven said it.

“So why you care what they think? You wanna be a man so damn bad, but men don’t care what nobody thinks.”

‘Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.’”
Sadness creeps into Momma’s eyes, but she gives me a small smile. “When I was growing up, your grandmother would do and say hurtful things when she was drunk, and apologize the next morning. At an early age I learned that people make mistakes, and you have to decide if their mistakes are bigger than your love for them.”

Bravery. Brave peoples’ legs don’t shake. Brave people don’t feel like puking. Brave people sure don’t have to remind themselves how to breathe if they think about that night too hard. If bravery is a medical condition, everybody’s misdiagnosed me.

Angie Thomas - The hate U give (Balzer+Bray, 2017)