The next day at Williamson things are eerily quiet. Starr asks what is going on, and Hailey reveals that her brother, Remy, is starting a protest for Khalil simply to get out of class. Making matters worse, Hailey says it is messed up that they’re protesting a “drug dealer’s” death. A disgusted Starr tells her that should have nothing to do with it and tells Hailey to leave her alone. She decides she is “done following Hailey.” Five minutes into class students start chanting “Justice for Khalil” and students walk out of the classroom. Only Starr and Chris stay behind. Later in the lunchroom, Starr is happy to see that Jess, a friend from the basketball team who is white, refused to join the protest as well. She, Starr, Chris, Seven, and Layla joke that they are protesting the “Get Out of Class Protest.”
Hailey’s prejudice and insensitivity become yet more apparent as she uses Khalil’s death for her own ends. Her relationship with Starr finally reaches its breaking point. Starr refuses to join the protest despite the fact that almost everyone else at Williamson does, signifying a step towards being herself rather than changing who she is to better fit in with white society. It is especially insensitive that the rich white students who are totally disconnected from Khalil and his experience would then use his murder as an easy excuse to miss a few minutes of class.
After school, Starr sees Mr. Lewis standing outside Maverick’s store and preparing to give an on-camera interview. Maverick says it is in response to some cops getting jumped around the corner. Starr mentally begs the news crew not to put Mr. Lewis on live TV, but the interview begins. Mr. Lewis bluntly tells the interviewer that thugs have been terrorizing Garden Heights for years, and he will “name one right now they can come and get.” Much to Starr and her family’s horror, he then snitches on King.
Snitching is one of the most dangerous offenses in Garden Heights, and men like King use this fact to their advantage—avoiding punishment by terrifying the community into silence. As such, Mr. Lewis’s actions are seen as the ultimate transgression against the rules of the neighborhood.
Maverick calls Mr. Lewis crazy after the interview for snitching on television, insisting he is “a dead man walking.” Mr. Lewis asserts that unlike the rest of the neighborhood, he isn’t scared of King. He reveals the prosthetic leg he got from the war as well as a scar on his stomach he got “after some white boys cut me ‘cause I drank from their fountain.” Compared to all that, he says, King’s “games” are nothing. He says King is still controlling everyone in Garden Heights, including Maverick.
Mr. Lewis’s mention of segregation and war highlights the relative absurdity of gangs, as well as the fact that they lead to dissention within a community that must stick together in the face of oppression. Mr. Lewis also calls out the way in which King uses silence and fear to control the neighborhood.
A police car with two officers shows up and they approach Maverick and Mr. Lewis. An officer named Larry, who is black, accuses Maverick of harassing Mr. Lewis, a claim both calmly deny. Starr notes that Mr. Lewis has his hands by his sides, and must have had “the talk” too. She also thinks they have targeted her father because of his baggy clothes and tattoos. Larry asks for Maverick’s ID, which he very slowly hands him, not wanting to make any sudden movements. Upon seeing his name, Larry forces Maverick to the ground and thrusts his knee into his back. A crowd of familiar neighborhood faces, including Mr. Reuben’s nephew Tim, has formed at this point; the officers tell them to leave, but they insist they this “is their business.” Larry begrudgingly lets Maverick up. Before the cops leave, Larry tells Maverick he will “keep an eye on him.”
Mr. Lewis’s code switching in front of the officers shows how deeply embedded knowledge of police brutality is in Garden Heights. Maverick is targeted because he does not conform to white notions of respectability—notions that have been absorbed even by the black police officer who confronts him. The perpetrators of police brutality need not be white, as assumptions about the criminality of black communities are common enough to be internalized by anyone.
After the incident, a shaken Maverick and the others go inside the store. Maverick slams his fists on the counter in anger. Mr. Lewis, no longer at odds with Maverick, tries to comfort him, while Sekani asks his siblings why the officers treated “daddy like that”? Seven comforts his little brother. Tim says that the officers humiliated him in order to scare Starr off from speaking up; news had spread that she was the witness.
Mr. Lewis and Maverick resolve their differences over a shared understanding of the racism they just had to endure. Sekani, who has not had “the talk” yet, is too young to understand what happened. Tim suggests the police, too, understand the power of Starr’s voice to make trouble for them.
Kenya overhears this and calls Starr a coward for not speaking up more on behalf of Khalil. She says that if Khalil were from Williamson, Starr would be have defended him, and further accuses Starr of abandoning both Khalil and her for the bougie world of her private school. Kenya insists Starr has a chance to help the entire neighborhood, and that Khalil would have spoken up for her.
Kenya’s words are a turning point for Starr, as they force her to accept that she has a duty to use her voice to better her community—to stay silent is also to take a stance. This reiterates the novel’s theme of the power and necessity of language.