Quinn admits that he is terrified on Friday. He begins the day by calling the police and telling them he wants to make a statement about the incident at Jerry’s. The officer sounds bored, telling Quinn that they already have a lot of statements, but Quinn insists. Outside school, Quinn is shocked to see an “enormous black vehicle” that resembles a tank, along with police in paramilitary uniforms. He is so frightened that he begins to shake. Other students shout: “This is what a police state looks like!” and “Serving and protecting who?”
Again, the novel emphasizes that one does not have to be fearless to stand up for justice. Rather, most of the characters work through their own fears while choosing to take a stand. Quinn may feel terrified by the protest, but he is guided by his own sense of determination and by the actions of the other students around him.
Quinn sees Jill, who explains that the police are preparing for “major riots.” Quinn expresses his fears, but thinks about his father, who “died for his convictions.” He thinks about how frightened his dad must have been every time he was deployed, and that his strength lay in his determination to act despite that fear. Jill points out that black people have to live in fear of the police every day, and that for just one day she is going to share that fear. She notes that Paul, Guzzo, and her mom all “hate” her, but that she is determined to be on the right side of history. Quinn looks out at the large, racially diverse group of students preparing to march, and thinks about his dad again. He tells Jill that he is going to march.
Jill has sacrificed even more than Guzzo through her participation in the march. Because her family is so strict in their demands of loyalty, Jill now feels that they “hate” her. However, whereas Quinn has struggled and wavered in his convictions, Jill remains committed to her principles to an inspiring degree. The implication is that if Jill is prepared to lose her family over this issue, then Quinn should be able to face his fears and participate as well.
During the school day, everyone is distracted. After the final bell rings, Quinn sees Dwyer headed to basketball practice. He knows that there will be consequences for him missing practice, but believes that he is taking “responsibility” by going to the march. He reflects that he is marching because he is white, and he feels a responsibility to take a stand against racism. He thinks about a sign he saw at school that reads “OUR SILENCE IS ANOTHER KIND OF VIOLENCE.”
Quinn knows that there are big risks associated with marching, particularly considering that basketball is his pathway to college. On the other hand, he also now knows that these consequences are not enough to justify not participating in the protest. Trying to maintain neutrality is not an option––there is no such thing as a neutral position in an unjust situation.
As Quinn joins the march, he films the protesters and cops around him. He then points the camera at himself and addresses Will, saying that Ma is always telling them to “take responsibility,” but that doesn’t just mean getting good grades and living life to the fullest. It also means standing up for “freedom and justice.” Jill tells Quinn she thinks she can see Rashad at the front of the march. Quinn reflects that while some people will probably call the protest unpatriotic, protesting is in fact an “All-American” thing to do. He cranes his neck, trying to see Rashad.
In this passage, Quinn explicitly draws together the theme of maturity and responsibility with the theme of American values. The novel has shown that American values of loyalty, family, and discipline can have a dark side, while also emphasizing that racism is a significant part of American culture. Here Quinn suggests that protest and activism are equally important American traditions.
The die-in takes place, and Quinn listens with horror as someone recites the many names of black people killed by the police in the past year. He stares up at the sky and wonders if, after the protest is over and the incident at Jerry’s fades from people’s memories, he will still feel the same passion for justice that he does now. He worries about becoming numb to the racist violence that black people experience. However, he finds consolation in the knowledge that Rashad survived, and once again searches for him in the crowd.
The end of this chapter emphasizes that fighting against racism and injustice is a lifelong battle. Just because Quinn has experienced several breakthroughs and a sharp increase in maturity in the novel doesn’t mean that his journey is over. Rather, he will have to keep working at undoing his own internal prejudice and reminding himself of the importance of taking a stand.