When the Khalils get arrested for selling drugs, they either spend most of their life in prison, another billion-dollar industry, or they have a hard time getting a real job and probably start selling drugs again. That’s the hate they’re giving us, baby, a system designed against us. That’s Thug Life.
Maverick says this in Chapter Ten when he gives Starr his interpretation of Tupac’s phrase “Thug Life.” Maverick’s explanation illustrates one of the most important themes in the novel: racialized poverty and violence are cyclical and entrap poor black neighborhoods for generations. This system lies at the root of Khalil’s death. Khalil began dealing drugs because of his family’s poverty, which resulted from the lack of opportunities his family had and his mother’s addiction to drugs. After One-Fifteen shoots Khalil, Khalil’s drug dealing becomes justification for his death. This cycle trapped Khalil with no options and then punished him for his lack of options. Importantly, Maverick and Tupac specifically call this system “hate,” which goes beyond discrimination or prejudice. This word choice emphasizes the maliciousness of this system and how the black people trapped within it are intentionally set up to fail. By connecting Khalil’s death to a larger system, Maverick clarifies why fighting for justice for Khalil is bigger than the death of one teenager.