On Thursday, Quinn wakes early, his thoughts “racing.” He looks out the window at the Galluzzos’ house, and remembers the day he stood there during his father’s funeral. Paul had told him that if he ever needed anything at all, he should come to him. Quinn had felt so relieved. Until Rashad’s arrest, everyone had only been thinking about the basketball scouts, but now Quinn feels like he is in the midst of something much bigger: a historical moment. He curses himself for previously running away from the reality of racism.
Quinn is able to see that before the event with Paul and Rashad, his thoughts tended to be rather self-centered, focused on his own choices and future. Now he is not only participating in a historical moment, but one that is not about him. This gives him a greater sense of meaning and purpose, and arguably enables him to let go of some of the anxieties that come with being his father’s son.
Quinn goes into his room and grabs a plain white t-shirt. On the front, he writes: “I’M MARCHING,” and on the back, “ARE YOU?” At school, some kids react to the shirt with disdain, while others smile and give Quinn high-fives. Dwyer grabs Quinn and asks, “What the hell, man?” and reminds him that Coach banned them all from going to the protest. When Quinn insists that the march is “important,” Dwyer calls him “wack.” In Mrs. Erlich’s trigonometry class, she writes statistics about police violence on the white board, telling the class: “The numbers don’t lie.”
As the march nears, the conflict between those who support it and those who oppose it becomes increasingly intense, heightened by the usual passions and dramatics of any high school. Quinn is not the only person who realizes that it is not possible or desirable to remain neutral or silent about racism. Mrs. Erlich’s actions show that even something as seemingly neutral as math can be linked to the issues of racism and police brutality.
Guzzo avoids Quinn all day, and at basketball practice refuses to look Quinn in the eye. As English aces a new play for the third time in a row, he raises a fist in the air and says: “Rashad.” After, Quinn and Guzzo end up colliding and wrestling each other on the floor. Minutes later, Guzzo whacks Quinn in the face with his elbow. Guzzo apologizes, claiming it was an accident, but Quinn thinks no one probably believes him. In the locker room, Quinn suggests that they call the new play the Rashad, and English happily agrees.
Quinn may have damaged his friendship with Guzzo beyond repair, but as a result he has found a new friend in English. Whereas before Quinn felt somewhat isolated by his discomfort with Guzzo’s reaction to Rashad’s arrest, he now feels comforted by the fact that there are many other students who are choosing to stand up for justice.
Once Quinn gets changed back into his normal clothes, Coach Carney points to his shirt and says, “This bullshit… has to stop.” He threatens to call Ma, which terrifies Quinn. Quinn leaves the locker room and runs into Guzzo, who immediately punches him in the face. He tells Quinn that he never wants to see him in his house or talk to him ever again. Quinn rushes to the bathroom so no one sees his bleeding nose. It strikes him that within a week, both he and Rashad have been beaten up by members of the same family. At the same time, he knows there is “no comparison” between the two incidents.
Quinn cannot help but still center himself to some degree, even though he is clearly not victimized by racism. At the same time, it is significant that by taking a stand against racism, Quinn alienates himself from certain other white people. The novel suggests that one of the reasons why white people end up staying silent about racism is due to the social punishment they face from other white people if they do so.
That night, Ma freaks out at Quinn’s busted-up face and asks what he did. Willy points out that it was Guzzo who beat Quinn, but Ma does not care. She says that after Coach Carney called her, she called Mrs. Galluzzo. She urges Quinn to think of the Galluzzos, and forbids him from going to the protest. Quinn asks if Ma has seen the video; she hasn’t, and claims that the video has been released to make Paul look like a “fool.” She asks what Quinn’s father would think, and Quinn replies that he doesn’t know, but that he thinks he would have stood up for his beliefs. Quinn and Ma hug.
Ma may behave in a strict manner with Quinn, but this passage reveals the extent of her vulnerability. As a single parent struggling to support her sons on a low income, Ma faces many practical issues as well as more emotional ones. Without Quinn’s father around, she must make all the decisions about how to raise the boys and what advice to give them by herself. This leaves her feeling conflicted and uncertain.
Paul had announced that he was going to become a cop when Quinn was in ninth grade. He claimed to have been inspired by the example set by Quinn’s father, and wanted to be “a hero” and “somebody who makes a difference.” Quinn had told him that he already made a difference. Now when Quinn thinks about that moment, he feels conflicted. The person who had been his hero has put a kid in hospital. Everyone keeps telling Quinn to be “loyal,” on the basis that his father was “loyal to the end.” However, now Quinn realizes that his father wasn’t loyal—he was principled; someone who believed in fighting for “a better world.”
This is a key moment in the novel. It is the point at which Quinn realizes he can honor his father’s legacy without doing everything his father did, and without conforming to the expectations of other people. He understands that the most significant example his father set was the importance of being a moral person and standing up for his own beliefs. Quinn does not need to share the exact same principles as his father in order to continue this legacy.