In doubting Maverick’s Black Power icons, Starr shows the enormity of the forces she faces by testifying and the inherent dangers of heroism. Although Maverick brings up the Black Panthers and Malcolm X to inspire her, their grisly ends remind Starr of the unfortunate reality that fighting for justice is inspiring in part because it is dangerous. Although Starr believes in Maverick’s philosophy, she understands that their righteousness does not make them safe. Maverick’s idols met terrible ends because they threatened the status quo, which made them the targets of powerful people, as demonstrated by the U.S. government itself going after the Black Panthers. Starr realizes now that because fighting for Khalil and Garden Heights means fighting against structural injustice, she has put herself and her family in grave danger, just like Maverick’s heroes.

Starr’s testimony before the grand jury marks the climax of the novel because this is when Starr speaks out against the injustice of Khalil’s murder due to systemic racism. Starr testifies to Khalil’s personhood by telling the truth of what happened that night. When she’s sworn in as a witness, Starr silently promises Khalil to tell the truth, which signifies that she testifies for him more than anyone else, affirming that his life mattered enough for her to fight for it. Starr follows both Maverick and Lisa in her actions because she does the right thing despite the very real dangers she faces from both the police and the King Lords. At this moment, Starr has done all she can to fight for Khalil, and has no control over whether it will work. Starr’s anecdote about Maverick’s sentencing and her resulting hatred of the courthouse casts doubt on the justice system’s ability to account for racialized poverty and the violence that results. Her actions here follow Lisa’s advice to always do right, even if the outcome is uncertain or doubtful.