On Tuesday morning, Quinn arrives at school to find the words “RASHAD IS ABSENT AGAIN TODAY” spray-painted on the pavement in front of Springfield Central High. Students gather to stare and take photos. The teachers deliberately avoid talking about it. At lunch, most students take their trays and sit outside by the graffiti. The only members of the basketball team who remain inside are the four other white boys, including Guzzo and Dwyer. Guzzo beckons Quinn over, which irritates Quinn. Quinn remembers Paul telling him that Springfield used to be 85% white, but that it is now only 37% white. Standing inside the cafeteria, Quinn feels painfully aware that he is part of “the white half.”
This passage makes explicit the way in which the incident at Jerry’s is connected to broader demographic and cultural changes taking place in Springfield. The decrease in the white population and increase in people of color has clearly left some people, like Paul, feeling threatened and resentful. However, others, like Quinn, do not wish to overinvest in their own whiteness and remain loyal to other white people. When he is compelled to do this, Quinn feels uncomfortable.
Jill asks Quinn where he’s going to sit, and tells him she wants to sit outside. Quinn agrees, but after Guzzo calls out to them they go and sit down at Guzzo’s table. During lunch, Jill reveals that Quinn told her he witnessed Rashad’s arrest. Guzzo is furious, and tells Quinn not to tell anyone else. Jill implores Guzzo to think about Rashad and his family, but Guzzo remains aggressively defensive of Paul, and reminds Quinn of all the things Paul has done for him. Guzzo leaves, and Dwyer tells Quinn they need to “get the team straight”––their futures depend on it. Quinn has been thinking this too, and notices the fear in Dwyer’s voice.
Guzzo refuses to think beyond his loyalty to his own family; when Jill begs him to think about Rashad and his family, Guzzo refuses. Guzzo’s allegiance to Paul is thus a failure of emotional imagination and empathy. He has a simplistic, “us vs. them” attitude which not only informs his own behavior, but makes him police the behavior of Quinn and Jill, too.
At practice, Coach Carney pushes the team extra hard. While they are on the leg machines, Quinn asks English if he knows who did the graffiti. English is standoffish, and tells Quinn: “Rashad didn’t do shit.” He becomes increasingly angry, especially after Quinn suggests Rashad might have been on drugs. English points out that Quinn smokes weed, whereas Rashad doesn’t do drugs at all. English emphasizes that Quinn is clueless and remarks: “I had no idea you were such a dick.” After English walks away, Guzzo thanks Quinn for supporting Paul. However, when Guzzo tries to joke about the graffiti, Quinn grows annoyed, which angers Guzzo in turn. Quinn apologizes to English, who is unmoved.
At this point in the story, Quinn is caught between two opposing sides. He angers Guzzo for not being sufficiently loyal to Paul, but is naïve and offensive when he attempts to reach out to English. Quinn is left feeling isolated, but this is perhaps not as bad a thing as it might appear. Quinn is undergoing a personal journey to make sense of difficult issues. Although the opinions of other people affect him, it is a journey he must ultimately complete by himself.
When the team starts to play, Quinn keeps messing up. He admits to Coach that his head is “up my ass” and Coach gives him two “suicides” (a sprinting drill) as punishment. Quinn realizes that he wants his life to go back to the way it was before Rashad’s arrest. That evening, he messes up a meal he has made countless times before. He can’t stop thinking about the fact that he can choose to forget or “walk away from” the incident at Jerry’s simply because he is white. He is “sick of being a dick,” and decides to watch the video.
While English’s words may have appeared harsh, they actually have a transformative impact on Quinn. By being called a “dick,” Quinn realizes that trying to remain neutral and brush things under the carpet actually makes him part of the problem. Having made this realization, he can take responsibility and begin behaving in a more constructive manner.
After watching, Quinn texts Jill to say he’s seen the video and then calls her, confessing his feelings of confusion and guilt. They discuss the role of racism in the incident at Jerry’s, and how race affects their town. Jill says that Mr. Fisher spent their whole history lesson talking about what happened to Rashad. She and Quinn agree that they want to do something, and decide to see what others are doing the next day. After hanging up, Quinn resolves not to “walk away anymore.”
As white people, Jill and Quinn have been shielded from racism and all the ways in which race helps structure the world. Confronting this reality is difficult and even painful, but they find strength in their friendship. This in turn allows them to refuse to be bystanders and to take an active role in attempting to make society more fair and equal.