Starr remembers “the talk” her parents gave her when she was twelve about how to behave in front of police officers. Lisa, her mother, thought she was too young, but Maverick, her father, said she was old enough to be arrested or shot. He emphasized doing exactly what she was told and speaking only when spoken to. Starr notes that if her loud-mouthed father said to be quiet, she knew she’d better listen.
The “talk” establishes how deeply embedded police brutality is in Starr’s world. Knowing how cops will look at her as a black individual, Starr must code switch for her own safety. Silence here also becomes a tool of oppression, as Maverick asserts that Starr must cede control of the conversation to the cops.
Back in the present, the officer approaches the car and Starr hopes Khalil has had “the talk” too. Khalil is immediately skeptical of what “this fool” wants. Remembering her father’s warning that if there were any contraband in a car everyone present would get in trouble, Starr anxiously asks Khalil is there is anything in the car. He says there isn’t. The officer shines his light in their faces and asks Khalil for his license and registration. Khalil asks why they were pulled over, breaking the “rules” of how to engage with law enforcement. The increasingly terrified Starr implores Khalil to just do what he says.
Khalil’s actions directly contrast with Maverick’s instructions regarding how to behave in front of the police, creating a sense of mounting tension and dread in the scene. Though Khalil’s behavior is relatively innocuous, and he is certainly within his rights to ask why he has been pulled out of the car, Starr understands that, as black kids, even the slightest hint of noncompliance could spell danger.
Starr remembers Maverick’s instructions to get a good look at the cop’s face, and notes that the officer is a white man with the badge number one-fifteen. One-Fifteen says he has pulled them over for a broken taillight and asks where they are coming from, to which Khalil responds with “nunya.” One-Fifteen demands that Khalil get out of the car, pins his arm behind his back, and proceeds to search him.
Starr remembers her father’s advice even amidst her growing fear, and she will refer to One-Fifteen by his badge number throughout the novel. The officer’s forceful, impatient response to Khalil exemplifies the police behavior Maverick warned Starr about.
Finding nothing, One-Fifteen angrily tells Khalil to stay where he is and not to move while he walks back to his patrol car. Starr mentally recites the lessons her parents taught her, including that it’s not smart to make sudden movements when an officer has his back to you. Khalil does this anyways, opening the door to ask Starr if she is okay.
The tension grows as Khalil repeatedly thwarts the advice Starr recites in her head. Violence seems increasingly inevitable. The fact that Khalil’s final act is to check in on Starr increases the poignancy of the next moment.
One-Fifteen shoots Khalil three times in the back. Starr watches in horror as blood spurts from her friend and Khalil drops to the ground. She rushes out of the car to his side as he dies. One-Fifteen tells her not to move and points his gun at her.
Khalil’s sudden death is violent, bloody, and senseless. The fact that One-Fifteen then points his gun at Starr reveals the depth of his prejudice: even as Starr is overcome with fear and pain, he still views her as a threat.