The interview proves one of the most watched in the network’s history, and there is an outpouring of support for Starr online. Kenya texts her approval, but also says King is angry that Starr effectively snitched on him.
Because Kenya is from Garden Heights and also knew Khalil, her approval means a lot to Starr. Kenya’s warning about King casts a cloud over the positive response to Starr’s interview, however.
The Saturday of prom arrives, and Starr is sitting in a Rolls Royce with Chris. He behaves coldly towards Starr, answering her questions “robotically” and barely looking at her. Loud music greets them as they arrive at the ballroom, and Starr notes how different Williamson and Garden Heights parties are. For one thing, the people at Williamson can’t dance like those at Big D’s. Starr feels less hesitant here, however, because being black makes her “cool by default.” She could make up a dance and everyone would think it was a new trend.
This is the second time Starr has noted how her classmates at Williamson fetishize her blackness, assuming her to be an arbiter of new trends. This is still a form of prejudice, as it denies black people the right to robust, diverse identities. Furthermore, associating being black with being edgy comes from the same thinking that associates blackness with innate criminality.
Maya finds Starr and says that she asked Hailey about the “cat” comment, but Hailey refused to apologize. Hailey has stopped speaking to both of them, in fact, and both Maya and Starr express anger at themselves for letting Hailey get away with her comments in the first place. Starr is thankful to have Maya in her life, and they dance with their other friends from the basketball team.
Starr and Maya remain committed to speaking up against casual racism in their everyday lives. Hailey clearly places her own pride and comfort over her friendships and willingness to take constructive criticism.
Chris continues to behave coldly towards Starr all evening, however, to the point that Starr storms out of the ballroom and back to the Rolls Royce. Chris runs after her and tells her he watched the interview and recognized her voice; he knows she is the witness. He is heartbroken that she kept that, and so much more about her past, from him. Starr explains that she feels she can’t share that part of herself with his world because people “use it against her,” treating her like a charity case from “the ghetto.” Chris begs Starr to open up to him. Unable to keep up the charade of bouncing between her two different personas, Starr relents.
Chris cannot understand the specific pressures and expectations black people like Starr face—especially when it comes to issues like police brutality. Starr realizes that she has been hiding, engaging in subtle code switching around Chris out of fear he would pity and think less of her. Starr has felt guilty for dating Chris ever since Khalil’s death, and has been trying to navigate how to be with someone from such a different world.
Still in the car, Starr opens up about her life in Garden Heights, as well as witnessing Natasha’s death and later Khalil’s. She tells Chris about living in a smoky, rat- and roach-infested apartment in the projects. Maverick, who struggled to get a job as an ex-con, had to use food stamps to buy clothes. She admits her guilt over not being there for Khalil. She calls Chris her “normal.” They say “I love you” to each other.
This act reflects not only a turning point in their romantic relationship, but also Starr’s growing acceptance of where she came from and comfort with who she is. Only after having truly been herself in front of Chris does Starr feel comfortable saying that she loves him.
Seven and Layla tap on the car door, and the four go back inside the prom. Chris gets up in front of the crowd and raps The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song for Starr. They dance the night away, and Starr doesn’t think about Khalil or Natasha. She calls it “one of the best nights of her life.”
The recurrence of the Fresh Prince theme song again suggests hip hop as a tool for catharsis. Far from the violence of Garden Heights, Starr is here able to feel like a “normal” teenager.