This student recalls having to participate in a trial as a witness and being told that she should protect her own group, her “blood.” She knows that she has to lie to protect Paco, her friend, who killed a man to protect her—in the same way that she is expected to give her own life to protect anyone in her group. In the courtroom, all her family and friends have come to support her and protect her from what the other side might do to her after the trial. She realizes, though, that she is not afraid of her rivals sitting on the other side, since she has already had to confront them violently in the past.
This student proves relatively invulnerable to the threat of violence. She is not scared but, instead, is busy considering issues of group loyalty and self-sacrifice. The logic of loyalty to family and friends is not based on the moral content of their actions, but on the simple logic of protection and revenge—a logic that does not conform to the ideal of justice that she is supposed to respect in the courtroom.
When she sees the accused boy’s mother in the audience, who looks desperate, is crying, and holds a little girl on her lap, she realizes that this black mother is just like her Mexican mother, and that she could be that little girl. She remembers herself as a child, desperate at not being able to get her father out of prison. The similarity of these two situations makes her feel pity and compassion for this woman, whose son could be unjustly condemned and sent to prison for years.
This student discovers her own concept of fairness and justice not through abstract theories, but by seeing the direct consequences of harm on another family. Her ability to identify with this black mother reflects her knowledge that, despite their different ethnicities, members of rival gangs share the same experiences—and that it is this experience, not the color of their skin, that should be honored and respected.
When the lawyer asks her who shot the man, she looks at Paco and sees the trust on his face, as he knows that she is going to lie for him. However, she begins to cry and Paco’s confidence falters. She remembers her mother’s words, when she told her that she was in the same position as the man who sent her innocent father to prison, and feels the courage to tell the truth. She looks Paco in the eyes and tells the lawyer that Paco is the true murderer.
This student finds that her compassion for a family that has been wronged proves stronger than the need to protect her own group. Whereas group loyalty is often based on the negative emotion of fear (since she would not want to be seen as betraying her own people), her courageous action to tell the truth is based on a positive emotion: the trust in justice and morality.