Khalil’s name finally appears on the news, along with the title “Suspected Drug Dealer.” The news does not mention that he was unarmed, and says the police spoke to an “unnamed witness.”
As Starr feared, Khalil’s drug dealing overshadows everything else about him and is already being used to make him seem guilty.
At Williamson, fried chicken is served for lunch in the cafeteria, much to Starr’s delight. In gym class, Starr sits between Hailey and Maya and scoffs at a girls vs. boys basketball game in which the girls mostly flirt instead of playing. Starr spots Chris on a bench, and looks at him as though she has suddenly “really, really” realized that he is white—a fact that feels like a “fuck you” to the black men in her life. She wonders if she is betraying Khalil by dating him.
Starr continues to grapple with her feelings of guilt about dating a white boy, fearing that it is the ultimate rejection of Garden Heights and her black identity. The implication is that she, too, fears she has absorbed notions of antiblackness.
Hailey drags Starr and Maya onto the basketball court to play. Starr doesn’t really want to join in the game, and reflects that, without her noticing it, Hailey has somehow become the leader in their friend group. The game starts off well until Starr becomes distracted by Chris. To Starr’s shock and disgust, Hailey yells for her to “pretend the ball is some fried chicken.” They lose the game, and afterwards Starr calls Hailey out about “making a fried chicken comment to the only black girl in the room.” Hailey is utterly indignant at the insinuation that she could possibly have said something racist, insisting it was just a joke in reference to lunch earlier that day.
Starr grows more aware and resentful of the power imbalance in her relationship with Hailey. This is the first time she has called Hailey out for a racist comment, reflecting her growing awareness of injustice and belief in the strength of her own voice. Hailey’s comment, and her haughty defense of it, further reveals her ignorance and prejudice, as well as her refusal to reflect on the way her actions (however innocuous they might seem to her) could uphold or contribute to larger systems of oppression.
Hailey and Maya ask if the Khalil they heard about on the news was the same Khalil who attended Starr’s birthday parties as a child, and if that is why she is behaving weirdly. Hailey dismissively refers to Khalil as “the drug dealer,” and Starr realizes that is all the world will ever see Khalil as. Worried what they will think of her, Starr denies knowing Khalil. She feels as though this is the ultimate betrayal.
Hailey refers to Khalil in a way that fits with stereotypical narratives about black people, latching onto the fact that he sold drugs rather than the fact that he was murdered. Starr fears that association with Khalil will destroy the “Williamson Starr” identity she has worked so hard to build.
Hailey then asks Starr if she is upset because of the anniversary of Natasha’s death, reminding Starr that the anniversary of her own mother’s death was a few weeks earlier. Starr bursts into tears and the gym teacher sends her to the school shrink. Not wanting pity, Starr runs off before her classmates see her crying and think of her as a “the Weak Black Girl.”
Even in her grief, Starr is forced to remain constantly aware of the assumptions others will make about her because she is black.
Starr goes to the headmaster’s office instead of the shrink’s, and fakes menstrual cramps to convince Carlos to sign her out of school. He takes her to get frozen yogurt, and, unconvinced by her act, asks what is going on. Starr says that because she had not seen Khalil in months before his death, she is worried about attending the funeral. She then pushes Carlos to explain why One-Fifteen has not been arrested yet. Carlos defends his colleague, saying one can never know how they will react in that sort of situation. He cannot say definitively whether he would have shot Khalil too. Starr confesses that One-Fifteen pointed his gun at her, too, and Carlos holds her. He repeatedly tells her “I’m sorry,” and that he knows “that’s not enough.”
Carlos is further established as a second father figure to Starr. His own identity is pulled in two different directions, as he must navigate being both a cop and a black man confronted with violence against his community. He initially remains loyal to the police force, preferring to rationalize Khalil’s death than accept that he is part of a broken system. But Starr’s reveal that One-Fifteen pointed his gun at her, too, begins to crack Carlos’s belief in the righteousness of his squad.