On Wednesday, Quinn still feels like he is in a “daze.” While taking Willy to school, he bumps into Paul Galluzzo, who looks exhausted. Quinn is alarmed by his instinctive feelings of sympathy for Paul. Paul asks why Quinn hasn’t taken up his offer to practice footwork, and when Quinn responds that he’s been busy, Paul says: “Don’t bullshit me.” Paul explains that he’s heard about what’s been happening at school, before launching into a defense of his actions. Quinn pretends to sympathize, but is unconvincing, and when they part ways Paul is clearly furious.
Quinn is becoming increasingly unable (or unwilling) to appease Paul and pretend that he is on his side. Paul senses this, and as a result becomes more aggressive, cussing at Quinn in front of Willy. Meanwhile, Quinn’s improved understanding of the situation is revealed by his guilt at his own instinctive sense of sympathy for Paul. For the first time, he is critical about why he has such an instinct.
Outside school, students––including Jill and Tiffany—are handing out flyers advertising the protest on Friday. Someone asks if Rashad will be there, but nobody knows the answer. In English class, Ms. Tracey distributes copies of the first chapter of Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man, entitled “Battle Royale.” Quinn is horrified by the story, which depicts old white men making young black men fight each other for entertainment. He tries to tell himself that white people were crazy “back then,” but realizes with dread that the present might not actually be so different after all.
Quinn keeps trying to reassure himself that racism is not as bad as it seems, but is increasingly less able to do so. This confrontation with the truth is difficult; however, it is of course far more difficult for all the black people who have been forced to discover it at a much younger age and in a much more personal, painful manner.
Ms. Tracey usually sits on top of her desk, but today she is sitting behind it. Suddenly, she starts to cry. She says that her head of department has advised her not to assign “Battle Royale.” Quinn writes a note to Tooms, suggesting that Rashad is the “invisible man” at Springfield High, and saying they should do something. Tooms mouths a request for backup before standing up and reading the story aloud, dedicating it to Rashad. Tooms, who would never normally volunteer to do such a thing, finishes reading, and Quinn takes over. Once Quinn is done, others follow suit. Some of the students avoid saying the racial slurs in the text, but Quinn still feels their presence, and realizes he needs to take a more active role in stopping racial violence.
Much of the action the students take in order to protest what happened to Rashad resolves around saying Rashad’s name and drawing attention to his absence. This is a technique used within the Black Lives Matter movement, for example under the slogan “Say Her Name,” which reminds people of the black women killed by the police. Responding to the fact that male victims of police racism often receive more attention, Say Her Name draws attention to the absence of the black women who have also been victims of violence, thereby giving their absence a powerful kind of presence.
At practice, Quinn is able to focus on basketball for the first time since Rashad’s arrest, and he does well. He and English get into an impressive rhythm together, and Quinn wishes the scouts were already there, watching. However, just before practice ends a fight breaks out between Guzzo and Tooms. Guzzo claims that “everyone has it in for me.” Coach makes the team promise to work together and think of the scouts, but Quinn is suddenly suspicious of his demand to leave the outside world at the door. Instead, he thinks that the focus should be on how the team works together in the outside world.
Quinn’s realization that leaving issues at the door will actually make the team worse, not better, is significant. Although sports are often presented as a form of escape in the novel, this scene reminds us that they cannot be divorced from the issues of the real world. It is no coincidence that when Quinn begins to stand up to racism and injustice, he finds himself playing better.
After practice, Guzzo once again defends Paul to Quinn, saying he was “just doing his job.” He asks Quinn what he would say if he was called as a witness, and when Quinn doesn’t reply, Guzzo pushes him away, saying “Fuck you.” Guzzo says that claims of racism are getting out of control, but Quinn reminds him that he and Paul are not the real victims. Coach brings the team together again and makes them promise not to attend the protest: “No parties, and no protests.” The team agrees, some very reluctantly. Quinn feels suspicious of the pressure to act together as a team.
Coach’s demand that the team act as one seems harmless enough, until we remember that this involves Rashad’s friends being forced to collaborate with Guzzo and others who are defending Paul. Such an alliance is unjust, and will likely not create a successful team dynamic. Coach’s ban on attending the protest is also unfair, as it forces the team (especially the black members) to put basketball over their allegiance to their friends, families, and to justice.