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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  April 4, 2019 4:30am-5:01am BST

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this is the briefing. i'm sally bundock. prosecutors in tokyo have entered our top stories: the house of the former the ayes to the right, 313. nissan chief carlos ghosn the noes to the left, 312. where he has been rearrested amid fresh allegations. a close call, as british mps vote ghosn was released on $9 million to force the prime minister to ask bail last month following three earlier indictments for financial wrongdoing. in britain, mps have voted to force the prime for an extension to the brexit minister to ask for an extension to the brexit process in a bid process in a bid to prevent leaving to avoid leaving the eu without a deal. the eu without a deal. as the deadlock continues, we report from germany, where political and earlier, theresa may met business leaders are growing the opposition labour party increasingly concerned. to try and break months of deadlock. prosecutors raid the home of former nissan chairman carlos ghosn, arresting a new report has found that poor him for a fourth time. diet is responsible for 11 million using technology to tackle disease — deaths per year, one in five deaths, published in the lancet medical how mixing microchips with human journal based on the research of cells could lead more than 130 scientists. now on bbc news, it's hardtalk.
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stephen sackur speaks to the writer angie thomas. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. when it comes to issues of race and racism, the gap between america's promise of equality and the reality of entrenched inequality seems depressingly wide. generations of black americans have made efforts to change that, so how far have they got? my guest today is angie thomas, a writer whose first novel electrified america with its unflinching betrayal of a teenage girl confronting police violence, inner—city gang culture, and a society rooted in discrimination. can hope win out over fear and hate?
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angie thomas, a warm welcome to hardtalk. thank you for having me. your books have been described as fiction for young adults. i mean, you're a young adult yourself, ijust wonder if you set out to write with a vision of your reader, your audience in your mind. you know, i initially did, but i have to say that the audience i have acquired is far wider than i ever would have imagined. when i write my books, i think of those kids in my old neighbourhood who often say they hate reading, and it's essentially because they aren't used to seeing books about people like them, so that's essentially my target, but it's gone beyond my target. i've had readers of the hate u give who have been 80 years old and everything in between so, what i set out to do,
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i didn't imagine what i would actually do, it's totally different. let us go back to jackson, mississippi, where you were born and raised, where you were schooled. were there experiences you had that were very much a part of the two novels you've had published so far? yes, absolutely. with the h, star. i lived in two worlds at one time, my mostly poor black neighbourhood and my mostly white upper—class private school, and i often found myself being two different people in two different worlds and struggling to figure out which angie was the real angie. whereas with my second novel, on the come up, when i was a teenager, i wanted to be a rapper, like my main character bri, and like bri, a big reason for that was my family was experiencing financial hardship. there were times when we got our meals from food banks, there were times when we weren't sure if we would have utilities, so i took those experiences from myself to help others get an understanding of what so many
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young people deal with. well, that's interesting because as you say, you've got two very strong female protagonists in these two books. star carter in book one, the hate u give, and then bri in two, on the come up. they are rather different, and as you've alluded to it already, star tries to conform, to shape herself into the situation, the context she happens to be in, whether it be the urban black neighbourhood or the white school. bri, on the other hand, has more anger in her, and she's more out there, she's more raw, less maybe controlled. which is the real angie? i think there are bits and pieces of me in both. when i was a teenager, i was defintely a bit more like star and concerned about what others thought so much that it controlled who i was. whereas now that i'm older, ifind myself a little bit more like bri, but inside i felt like bri, i had those frustrations and the anger and also the passion and the drive, and i was driven by a love for my family and a determination to make it, so i definitely
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connect with both. let's talk about anger. what were you angry about as a kid? you know, i think for me as a kid, i was angry about the circumstances and the fact that people outside of my life and outside of lives like mine failed to try to understand the circumstances. the reason i loved hip—hop so much, as a teenager and as a kid, was because rappers were speaking about my situation and they understood it. whereas if i watched the news, when they talked about neighbourhoods like mine, when they talked about people like me, it was only in a negative light. no—one was actually seeing us and celebrating us. did you feel that was directly about race and the fact you were black, and the prevailing sort of culture, particularly, for example, in the mass media, was driven by white people and the white understanding? mm—hm, absolutely. the white gaze plays a huge role in how others are depicted, specifically how young black people are depicted, but the media plays a huge role too...
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sorry to interrupt, but i, just this word racism, was that part of your vocabulary as a teenager? you felt in your everyday life that you were subject to racism? you know, i wouldn't say in my everyday life, but i was dealt with cards that were to due to a systemic racism, and what i mean by that is that neighbourhoods like mine were not given the resources that majority white neighbourhoods were given. i had to leave my neighbourhood in order to get a quality education, i had to go to a majority white school in order to do that. so i can't day that i was worried every day about encountering racism, no, it was not a part of my everyday vocabulary, but i understood that there was a system, that was built upon racism, that affected my everyday life. and hip—hop, which you were really into as a young woman, rapping as a teenager, was that a vehicle for you to be able to express some of the emotion, some of the anger that you were feeling inside? yeah, i think so, i think so, hip—hop does that for a lot of young
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people, and i think that's why hip—hop scares so many people, or at least at one point it did, and i think it's because it was speaking to the real, raw feelings that young people in america felt, and rappers weren't holding back, they were telling these uncomfortable truths and they were telling these uncomfortable truths that were sometimes rooted in anger and that sometimes scared people, but for young people like me, that made us feel validated and heard. you write quite a lot about rap and i'm fascinated by it because bri, your central character in the new book, in on the come up, she was furious and when she had an incident in her school where she felt she'd been really unfairly treated by security and what have you, and she got really, really hacked off, she wrote this rap. and i'm going to — i'm not going to try and rap it, but i'm going to quote it because it. . .. yeah. it seems to me it raises some interesting questions about the rap culture and about black kids and how they are perceived and whether it's fair, because bri wrote this rhyme,
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she wrote: "you think i'm a thug, well, i claim it. this glock, yeah, i cock it and aim it. "that's what you expect" — there's a word i can't use there that begins with b, "ain't it?" "i frame it." a lot of people reading that in the fiction, but also in real life, will think yeah, that's typical, that's black kids using bad language, projecting an extremely aggressive image. exactly, but what bri means by that, and what the book sets out to do is show that this is the image that so many of us have put on these kids and this is what we say we expect out of them, and then we have a music industry that rewards that sort of behaviour, and it's one giant big machine that's leading to this image, but we're forgetting the actual kids in the midst of this and we're relying on stereotypes and assumptions, as opposed to looking at them as real people. so when she says "the picture you painted, iframe it", meaning this is exactly what you expect out of me, so i'm going to say it because that's what you are expecting, but that does mean it's me. it's sort of weary resignation in a way. it is, and in some ways, almost her giving up in a sense.
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let's flip that feeling inside of young black people around and let's think of star, again the more conformist one, the one who was looking to avoid confrontation in most of her daily life. star has with her parents what i think a lot of black people call ‘the talk‘, when they reach sort of teenage orjust before, the parents take them to one side and say look, this is how you have to behave in front of authority, but in particular, in front of the police. did you have that talk? i did and i got it from a cousin who was a cop. my cousin was a pretty well—known cop injackson, mississippi, and he understood that some of his fellow officers would not value me the same way he did, simply because of the colour of my skin. so he sat me down one day and told me where to keep my hands, how to react, how to behave, don't speak too loud, use yes sir, no sir, yes ma'am, no ma'am in every single situation, so i got the talk from him.
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has it made a difference in your life? do you — you know, we discussed a lot how you deal with emotion and anger in daily life, when it comes to dealing with authority, particularly the police, and in the context of all of the shooting of unarmed black people we've seen in the united states in recent years and the furore that's caused, how has it affected you? you know, the thing about the talk that i'm realising and it saddens is that it no longer feels like it can be applied. i look at someone like philando castile, who did everything he was supposed to do and yet he still lost his life. i have parents coming to me now saying i gave my kids the talk but then they saw philando, what do i do? and the frustration for me now is, i don't know. so it's scary to say, and there's a line in the movie, the hate u give, from an actual activist we quoted, her name is shamell bell. she once said, "it hard to be unarmed when your blackness is the weapon they fear the most", and what she means
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by that is the assumptions and internal bias, that gives them more of a reason to see you as a threat than any weapon you could hold. and that's the frustration, but i have hope, because more people are becoming aware and more people are calling these things out and more people are calling for accountability, that maybe just maybe we'll eventually see change. interesting, you say people are calling for accountability, the question is how far you go in the demand for change. we — not long ago on this show, we spoke to a rapper, a guy called tef poe, who's very intimately involved in the black lives matter movement, and he uses this kinf of language. he says, quote, "the police are at war with us.", "i am an advocate", he says, "of militant, direct action", in terms of nonviolent protest. so the question i guess for you is, in your books and in your own life, how militant do you believe you can legitimately be? you know, these days it feels like you have to be a little bit more, but for me personally, i don't see myself necessarily as militant. i see myself, if nothing else,
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i want to see myself as active, however that may be, and what i mean by that is if that's me using my art to call things out, if that's me using my art to call attention to things, then maybe just maybe it can have some change. i have nothing but love and respect for the people who are out there on the front line and doing the militant work but for me personally, as someone whose — my passion is writing books and my passion is giving kids a mirror to see themselves in a world that often tries to tell them who they are before they ever open their mouths, that's where my passion lies and that's what i focus on. i'm focusing on this new generation of leaders too, because the kids i write about today, they're going to be politicians with twitter accounts tomorrow. so that's the way you feel about it, you are really thinking to yourself if i can get inside the minds of these kids, it is really going to matter because they are the next generation of community leaders, politicians, whatever? absolutely, i take that very seriously and i think that they need empathy now. there's an academic by the name
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of dr rudine sims bishop, who describes books as either being mirrors, windows, or sliding glass doors. all three are equally important to young people now, so that when they become adults, they have more empathy and they have better views of themselves. your problem is going to be if you become so sort of controversial, that sounds like a weak word in a way, but if you push the limits of what you write about to a degree where there's going to be a reaction among some in america. i'm just thinking, for example, about the one texas city that tried to ban your books in the schools because of, quote, "inappropriate language, pervasive vulgarity and racially insensitive language", and then in south carolina, a police union who tried to get your books banned from reading lists because of, quote, "an indoctrination of distrust of the police." so there are forces that are getting riled up by what you are writing. yeah, but, you know, all my heroes faced the same to some capacity. dr king is the most celebrated activist of all time but when doctor king was alive, he was not celebrated.
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why? because he made people uncomfortable. true change comes from discomfort, so the fact that they say that usually comes from people who haven't actually read the book, you know, and i will say it, there are over 89 instances of the f—word in the hate u give, but last year alone, over 800 people lost their lives at the hands of police brutality. i wish that those school districts and that police union were more angry about that than they are about the words in my book. that's what i want, so... but every time it happens, when it's challenged by those sorts of forces, young people speak up and speak out for the book, and teachers and educators do as well, and they say no, this book is changing perspectives and it's opening minds and creating empathy, we need it. so, you know, they can try to fight against it and use their discomfort to keep them from actually experiencing it, but for me as a writer, i can't worry about that. i want to tell the stories that kids need and whether that makes others uncomfortable, that is on them, not me.
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again, it cuts two different ways because on the one hand, you're being castigated by someone in authority and it has to be said they're usually white authorities, who do not like the messages, but on the other side, there's nuance in your stories which shows us that there are good cops as well as bad cops, it shows us that there are screwed up communities where black people make terrible, selfish decisions, sometimes driven by drugs or greed or whatever. and i just wonder whether even in the black community, in your own community injackson, mississippi, there have been people who have said to you you know what, you're portraying us in a bad light, your focus on the damage the drugs does, bad decisions that people make, particularly, frankly, men in families who walk away from their responsibilities, you're portraying a negative image of particularly the black male. you know, i haven't gotten that because you have a character like star's dad in the hate u give, maverick, he was a wonderful black father, who was there and is involved. i have had so many black men, in particular, say thank you for that. we see in on the come up,
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bri's father unfortunately lost his life due to bad decisions and my goal with that was to show young kids who have dealt with that how to grieve a little bit better. but i, you know, every time i do a quote—unquote negative image, for me it's to show the human part of this person. right. so you have a character like bri's aunt, who is involved in gangs, and she makes bad decisions at times. but i also want to show you the person, because the problem with stereotypes is they don't humanise people. and myjob as a writer is to humanise people. so i haven't gotten anything about, oh, the negative — the celebration of black men through, like, maverick, and even starr's brother, seven, has gotten me such positive feedback.
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the, um, bri character does, in a sense, strike me as quite autobiographical. certainly, some of the family detail. the fact that you were raised by your mum and your grandmother as well. it was women who dominated your upbringing, rather than men. one thing i also know about you is that you had a tough time at school, a really tough time. yes. and you got, i think, really quite seriously depressed. yes, absolutely. what took you to that place? it was bullying. i was bullied a lot. but, um, you know. i dealt with that through middle school. and a lot of it was from my peers who, some of them, i guess, were jealous of my circumstances. and it's sad to say, but we were kids, some of my classmates went through traumatic things. i didn't, in that sense. i had my mum who was a stable force in my life, whereas some of my classmates didn't. and although my dad wasn't involved, i had my grandmother. and the two of them were my two parent household. and, yeah, we went through
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hardships, but i had them. some of my classmates didn't have that. but how bad did it get for you at school? it was pretty bad. so bad that my mum pulled me out of school and homeschooled me. so it was — it was — sometimes it was daily harassment and stuff like that. and it affected me mentally in a lot of ways. but i'm thankful that i had a great support system that helped me through that. that's why i say when it comes to bullying, i was lucky because i had adults who were listening to me when i told them that there was a problem. more kids need that. another fascinating nuance in your work is relationships between black young people and white young people, because it's never entirely straightforward. and there are strong friendships but there are also undercurrents of misunderstanding, mistrust, and suspicion — on both sides. yeah. have you got really close and good white friends that you've had very long in your life? yes. absolutely, absolutely. you know, some characters are based
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on real—life people and experiences i've had with real—life friends. and it's always been interesting just discussing the things that make us uncomfortable, discussing stuff like race. i mean, all of us, at some point or another, we get a bit uncomfortable talking about it. but i've had friends who i'm able to talk about these things with and we're able to create a safe space, safe conversations to be wrong at times. but this is — it's so interesting, because there's one great sort of telling element in the relationship between starr, we keep talking about starr because she's the central character of the hate u give, and a long—time white friend of hers, from school, hailey. starrr, at one point, instagrams a picture and a story about emmett till, the poor black young boy who was lynched back, i believe, in the 19505, and he became a symbol of so much of race hate and the suffering
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of black communities at that time. yeah. herfriend, hailey, the white friend, just couldn't handle the fact that starrr was sending her this image, this horrible image of a young boy being lynched. and it became a huge issue, unspoken issue in theirfriendship, which, in the end, died. yeah. do you think white people struggle sometimes in america to be confronted with the realities of racism ? oh yeah, forsure. for sure. i've come across instances where it seems as if people are more afraid of being called racist than of actually being racist. and the thing is, racism slips into our language sometimes in different ways that we don't recognise. you know, whether it be through microaggressions or this or that, but there have been instances where people are like "i don't want to see that, i don't want to see that", but by ignoring it, we end up in the position we're in now, especially in america, where this has been happening all along, but nobody wanted to acknowledge that it was happening and this is why we're at the point we're at right now. so let me, if i may, invite you to enter slightly more political territory with me. 0k. we've talked a lot about
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the fiction and its nuance, but, you know, you're also an american who watches day by day how politics unfolds in your country. you saw the election of the first black president, barack obama. some black people in america are now saying you know what, that — all that talk of post—racial america was so much bs. mm—hmm. it was in some ways an illusion. how do you make sense of obama leading to trump? you know, i — when people would say, oh, we're in post—racial america, i would laugh, because the fact is this man, obama, he was criticised for every small thing. just think about it for a second. if obama did half the stuff that donald trump has done, they would have gotten him out of office quickly. that's just fact. he would not have been the first black president for long, and so it's — we're not in a post—racial america. we were in a comfortable for a lot of people america, and what i mean by that is there's this joke in the movie get out,
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where this one character says, well, if obama would have ran a third time, i would have voted for him. and this was an extremely racist character who said that. but they don't want to confront that, they want to do the band—aid thing. right. and the band—aid thing is, oh, i voted for him, i support him. but you're not addressing the issues that people who aren't obama are dealing with in this country. so, it's — it's, obama as president gave a lot of us hope, but we still have a long way to go in america. there's a professor at princeton, works in the african affairs studies department, eddie glaude, he's written this: "what has for so long been hidden or wilfully ignored is now, in the era of donald trump, out in the open." he's not blaming trump, in fact, he's saying it's about much more than donald trump. he's saying americans will ultimately have to decide whether or not this country is going to remain racist. is that the way you see it too? um, ido. but i do think that our president plays a role, in the sense that his — the way he speaks, the things that he says, the things that he believes, have created — have given a lot of people, who are bigots, validation.
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he has validated a lot of these sentiments. and he validates them either by saying things or by not saying things. when there have been incidences of, for instance, the incident where the gentleman saved the people in the waffle house shooting, it was a black gentleman, not once did the president ever congratulate him or give him any sort of acknowledgement, not that he needed it, but not once. but if — when we have incidents like the one in dc, with the kid who was wearing the make america great again hat, all of a sudden the president was speaking out in defence of him. he only — we have a president who only wants to represent people who think like him and who look like him. you have been described, i don't know whether you like this or not, but you have been described as the "african—american voice of your generation". it seems to me that puts quite a burden, quite a pressure upon you. do you feel comfortable with that thought? i don't. and why i say that, i'd rather be seen as a microphone for this generation, than the voice for them.
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i want to give them the ability to speak up and speak out for themselves. i want to give them the confidence to do that. i want to celebrate them in a way that they feel as if they can and that they should. when you get reaction, from particularly young black readers, how satisfying is it when it seems that you have put with them on a track when they, a, want to read more and, b, want to get more active in their communities? that means everything to me. it's phenomenal. it's the best feeling. i've won a lot of awards, but i would trade all of those in for those reactions, honestly. you know, for kids who often feel that they aren't seen and they aren't heard, for them to feel like they are seen and heard through my book, and then, like i said, celebrated, that's everything. and i hope that it makes a difference in their lives in some way. yesterday, here in london, i had a young lady who came up to me and she said, "may i shake your hand? i just want to be able to say one day that i shook the hand of my inspiration." and for me, that was like the best thing i could have heard in an entire year.
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so if i'm inspiring them in any way and celebrating them, then i've done myjob. angie thomas, thank you very much indeed for being on hardtalk. thank you, thank you. it was a pleasure. hello there. it's certainly been quite a turbulent start to the month of april, let's look back at wednesday's weather. under an area of low pressure, we had clouds spiralling across the british isles, we had gale force gusts of winds in the far north. now, for some, it brought a classic april day. sunny spells and scattered showers, not feeling too bad in the sunshine. some of the showers quite heavy with some hail, but for others, well, this is what we were greeted with first thing in the morning.
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some lying snow, several centimetres in places across parts of scotland and north—east england. now, it does look as though there's a potential for further snow over the next few hours, but in a slightly different area, and it's worth bearing in mind that there could be a little bit of disruption on minor roads. that area of low pressure is slipping its way south—west and that is where we're likely to see the most unsettled weather over the next few hours. now, any snow is likely to be to higher ground across wales, but it's worth bearing in mind we could see some slushy deposits at lower levels and maybe for a time into the west midlands as well. circulating around that low is a band of showers, it'll be a pretty miserable early morning rush hour. elsewhere, some clearer skies, some sunshine coming through. the rain in scotland slowly edging its way westwards as we go through the day. so into the afternoon, the best of the sunshine looks likely to be the further east you are, underneath that area of lower pressure, we still see the bands of showery rain circulating around that low.
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now, by friday, the low starts to lose its grip a little, it sinks a bit. further south and west, weakens slightly, and the wind direction starts to come in from a south—easterly, a slightly milder source and that will be a noticeable change across the country. it means that the showers are likely to be fewer and far between in comparison to what we have seen. so there's a potential on friday starting off with some showers but they will fade away, perhaps northern ireland seeing the heaviest into the afternoon. and elsewhere, some sunny spells coming through and it will feel a degree or so milder. back into double digits, 10—13 degrees the high. that looks likely to be the scene as we move into the weekend, because that south—easterly flow will continue to drag in milder air from the near continent. the only issue with that is it could bring a little bit more in the way of cloud and some moisture. so it could be quite a murky weekend. so that's worth bearing in mind, but in comparison to what we have seen this week, it's not going to be
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anywhere near as cold. take care.
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