Needing to clear her head, Starr leaves and walks to Maya’s house nearby. Maya is excited to see Starr, but Hailey, who is also there, remains cold. After a brief time playing video games, Hailey cuts the tension in the room and asks Starr why she is mad at them. Starr asks why Hailey attended the fake protest for Khalil, and Hailey defends herself by saying everyone else did it too. Maya apologizes for using a “tragedy to get out of class,” but Hailey refuses to admit she was wrong. Instead, she demands Starr apologize for calling her racist. Starr realizes that Hailey has always been a master of twisting situations so that she seems like the victim, but Starr refuses to fall for it anymore. Starr insists her fried chicken comment was, in fact, racist. Hailey still refuses to apologize, and they sit in tense silence while watching TV.
Hailey insensitively equates the pain of being called a racist with actually experiencing racism—not an entirely uncommon sentiment in modern real-world discussions of these issues. She refuses to admit her mistakes and only grows more defensive when called out. Starr finally begins to recognize how many slights she has allowed Hailey to get away with throughout their friendship, silencing herself to make Hailey feel more comfortable.
Maya flicks through channels and lands on the television interview with One-Fifteen’s father. Pictures of a smiling One-Fifteen with his wife and children flash across the screen, bolstering the image of him as an upstanding family man. The program then shows images of the worst parts of Garden Heights, dismissing it as a neighborhood “notorious for gangs and drug dealers.” Starr is angry that none of the good parts of her neighborhood are highlighted, such as Mr. Reuben, Lisa’s clinic, Mr. Lewis, and her family.
Whereas Khalil is dismissed as nothing more than a drug dealer, One-Fifteen’s father works to present his son as a decent man deserving of sympathy. Much like Khalil’s drug dealing has overshadowed everything else about him, the outside world sees only the violence and strife of Garden Heights.
One-Fifteen’s father goes on to say that his son “loved” working in Garden Heights and “wanted to make a difference”—an attitude Starr compares to slave masters thinking “they were making a difference in black people’s lives.”
When men like One-Fifteen position themselves as the saviors of dangerous black neighborhoods, they are simply upholding the notion that black people are inferior and criminal—the same racist assumption that robs black children of their innocence and contributed to One-Fifteen’s shooting of Khalil.
As he tells the story of the shooting, One-Fifteen’s father paints a picture of Khalil’s death that is nothing like what Starr experienced. He portrays both Starr and Khalil as dangerous threats who cursed at One-Fifteen, resisted his orders, and conspired to take him down. One-Fifteen’s father says his son was “a good boy” who rightfully feared for his life, thought he saw a gun, and just wanted to get home to his family, yet the media is portraying him as a “monster.” His son’s life has been “hell” since the shooting, and a fellow officer even attacked him. Starr realizes this must have been Carlos. In her outrage, she furthers notes that interview has “killed” a part of her—the part afraid of speaking out.
Starr knows that, as two unarmed black children, she and Khalil were in a decidedly less powerful position than One-Fifteen during their encounter. His fear, if it really existed, was a delusion fueled by racist assumptions about black youths. His father is attempting to garner sympathy for his son by denying Starr and Khalil their humanity. Thomas again asserts the power of language by saying that Starr is no longer afraid of using her voice to fight for justice.
After the interview Hailey expresses sympathy for One-Fifteen, asserting that “his life matters too.” Starr is appalled by her sympathy, believing it rightly belongs to Khalil’s family. She angrily points out that white lives always seem to matter “more.” Hailey refuses to cede the point, saying Starr is in “bitch mode.” Starr asks why she unfollowed her Tumblr, demanding to know if it was because of the Emmett Till photo. An outraged Hailey accuses Starr of calling her racist again, and storms out of the room.
The use of the word “matters” again echoes the real-world Black Lives Matter movement, which seeks to rectify the lack of importance assigned to black life and death. As Starr points out, people bend over backwards to defend white men like One-Fifteen while dismissing people like Khalil without a second thought.
After Hailey has gone, Maya says that Hailey was lying: she did unfollow Starr’s Tumblr because she was tired of seeing, as Hailey put it, the “black stuff.” As Maya names civil rights activists Starr posted images of, Starr is impressed that she has been “paying attention.” Maya says she had said nothing to Starr out of hope that Hailey would come around, but feels ashamed for not knowing better; Hailey had said racist things before.
Though Starr is taken aback by Hailey’s blatant racism, Maya asserts that it is not a new phenomenon. Even small, throwaway comments can be indicative of deeper prejudice, and people of color should not have to accept casual racism as a “normal” part of life, or minimize their feelings to keep white people comfortable.
Maya tells Starr that after Thanksgiving their freshman year, Hailey asked Maya, who is Chinese, whether her family “ate cat.” Maya says Starr had looked horrified at the moment but neither of them said anything. When Hailey laughed, they joined in. Starr is deeply ashamed, wondering if she felt that she “had” to laugh in that moment. Starr says they cannot let Hailey get away with her prejudice. Maya smiles and suggests the two of them form a “minority alliance.”
Starr further recognizes how silence can be a tool of oppression, and, as such, how important it is that she speak up in the face of racism. Though of different ethnic backgrounds, the fact that Maya and Starr create this “minority alliance” reflects the novel’s theme that diverse communities must bind together in the fight for racial justice.
Starr walks back to Carlos’s house, where she finds her uncle having a beer outside. She can tell that something is deeply wrong; Nana was a violent alcoholic, so even one beer is a big deal to Carlos. Starr notices the bruises on Carlos’ knuckles and puts things together: Carlos is on leave because he punched One-Fifteen in the face. The idea of her uncle fighting makes Starr crack up with laughter. Carlos smiles too, saying that as someone from Garden Heights, he “knows how to fight.” Starr is touched, but also worries about Carlos losing his job. Carlos says he loves his family more than the force, and that Starr is the reason he became a cop in the first place. Starr asserts that they need good cops like him.
Carlos’s distress hints at his own feelings of being torn between two identities—that of a cop, and that of a black man from Garden Heights. The fact that Carlos is put on leave for confronting One-Fifteen further suggests the gang-like nature of the police force, as anyone who shows disloyalty by failing to defend the “bad apples” risks their job. This points to a broken culture of policing in general, which even good cops like Carlos can’t fix on their own.
Carlos admits that the interview with One-Fifteen’s father made him rethink his earlier dismissal of Khalil as nothing more than a drug dealer. He is angry with himself for trying to rationalize the death of a boy he watched grow up. Whatever Khalil’s background, Carlos says, he should not have been killed for “opening a car door.” He also asserts that had he been at that traffic stop, he would not have shot Khalil.
Carlos understands that this issue is bigger than one incident, and his words assert that black people should be allowed to be complicated human beings no matter the situation. Carlos further recognizes that individuals who cannot see past their own prejudice should not be tasked with protecting a community.