The car is silent as Seven drives to his grandmother’s house. Starr can’t understand what went wrong, or why Khalil didn’t matter enough for his death to be considered a crime. Kids around them start chanting “Justice for Khalil.” Seven slams the steering wheel in frustration and asks Starr if she wants to “burn shit up.” Starr says she wants to protest and riot. Chris says that won’t solve anything, but Starr snaps back that talking didn’t either; if the world doesn’t care about her, then she doesn’t care about the world.
Chris does not understand the anger Starr feels in this moment. Starr feels like she has done everything right, and it still didn’t matter. Rejecting Lisa’s earlier advice to keeping “doing right” in such situations, Starr now wants to treat the world the way it has treated her. This scene also provides some context for readers who might see riots happening on TV and not understand the anger or frustration behind them—those like Chris, who have the privilege of remaining disconnected from racial injustice and so feel like they can easily judge what will and won’t “solve anything.”
Seven drops Kenya and Lyric at their grandmother’s house as riots erupt in Garden Heights. Seven asks if Chris wants him to drive him home, as things are about to get “wild,” but Chris says he wants to stay with Starr and for everyone to know the indictment decision was wrong.
Chris can never fully understand what Starr has gone through, but he realizes he can be an ally. Community boundaries once again dissolve, as the only groups that matter are those fighting for justice and those fighting against it.
The group asks DeVante why he walked off, and he tells them he wanted to visit his brother, Dalvin, in the cemetery. They arrive at Magnolia Avenue, where music blasts, horns blare, and people shout from the hoods of cars. Flames can be seen in the distance. They park at the Just Us for Justice office, which has been boarded up and had “black owned” spray painted over it so that rioters know not to target it.
DeVante’s feelings for Dalvin again reflect that, gangbanger or not, his life mattered. It is for that reason that so many people in Garden Heights have taken to the streets. This time, however, the community has come together to protect their own.
Chris feels out of place in the crowd, and realizes this must be how Starr and Seven feel at Williamson. They climb atop a bus for a better view, and see King Lords and Garden Disciples protesting together on top of a police car. The crowd grows more violent, with people screaming to flip the police car and smashing its windows. Starr recognizes that her anger over the verdict is shared by her community. Someone starts playing NWA’s “Fuck tha Police” and Starr shouts along with it; despite her love for Carlos, she has realized this is not about good cops like him.
Gang members protesting together is the ultimate symbol of unity in the face of oppression. Starr has come to view police brutality as an issue that goes beyond individual cops, and as such recognizes that her anger at the police has nothing to do with Carlos; it is directed at a system that allows men like One-Fifteen to get away with murder.
The riots reach a tipping point. People start smashing the windows of a nearby McDonalds, the same one Starr remembers eating at with her parents. She screams for them to stop, but the building bursts into flames. As flames pour out of other businesses’ windows, Starr thinks of Maverick’s store and all the memories it holds for her family. The crowd cheers for the buildings to burn, and though Starr recognizes their anger, she thinks this is not the right way to change things.
The destruction of a sentimental place makes Starr realize that violence is ultimately not the answer, and that hurting everyone will only cause more problems in the long run. Though she briefly gave into her anger, she understands that she needs to do more if she wants to bring about lasting change.
A line of police officers in riot gear arrive, telling protestors to get off the streets because this is “not a peaceful assembly.” People start throwing rocks and bottles at the cops. Someone throws a Molotov cocktail, and the group runs back to Seven’s car to drive away from the riots. While in the car, DeVante defends the rioters by saying peaceful protests haven’t worked, and echoing Starr’s words that because the world doesn’t care about them, they shouldn’t care about the world. Starr fears what will happen if the rioters reach the store.
The arrival of the police in riot gear and use of tear gas directly echo the real-world Black Lives Matter protests that inspired Thomas’s novel, and presents the dystopian scene of a militarized police “at war” with the populace they are supposed to be protecting. Starr’s concern for the store creates a sense of foreboding, as she fears the protestors’ anger will destroy everything in its path.
DeVante is impressed that Chris knew NWA lyrics. The atmosphere in the car lightens as they try to “test” Chris to see if he’s black by asking him about certain elements of black culture. The group make lighthearted fun of stereotypical things white people do, but the mood becomes slightly tense when Chris asks why black people have “odd names.” Seven points out that Chris is judging things from a “white standard,” that many of these names are common in black communities, and that white people give their children strange names as well. Suddenly gunshots go off nearby, frightening everyone in the car.
White people do not get to define the baseline for normality. Though the specific focus of this conversation is names, this logic could easily be applied to other elements of culture that are taken as “normal” but are, in fact, part of the same white standard. For example, the language Starr uses at Williamson is no more normal than that she employs in Garden Heights; it is just more accepted by white society.