Summary: Chapter 26
The next morning, Ms. Ofrah calls to apologize for putting Starr in danger and for the grand jury verdict. She tells Starr that she’s proud of her and thinks Starr has a future career in activism. Starr stares at the Tupac poster that she bought to remind her of Khalil and the message of Thug Life. She reflects that all the hate last night hurt everyone, and now they must figure out how to fix it.
Starr checks her texts. Maya texted enthusiastically after seeing Starr on the news. Chris texted to tell her he’s grounded but has no regrets. Hailey also texted to apologize. Starr wants to know what she means by her apology. Hailey says she’s sorry about the decision and that Starr is mad at her. Hailey wants their friendship to go back to how it was. Starr realizes Hailey isn’t taking responsibility for her hurtful words. Starr texts to say that things will never be the same and deletes Hailey’s number from her phone.
Starr asks Maverick whether his roses survived the move. The roses are a bit damaged, but Maverick assures Starr that the new soil will be a reset for them. Lisa tells Starr that she has been on every news channel, and Maverick calls her “Li’l Black Panther.” He almost swears talking about a news channel that insulted Starr. Sekani demands money for the swear jar, but Seven stops him. Lisa asks why Seven’s worried, and Sekani says Seven told him they need to be careful with money to afford their new neighborhood. Lisa and Maverick promise they’re not moving back. Starr asks if it’s OK to leave Garden Heights when they could stay and fix it. Lisa and Maverick say they can help Garden Heights without living there. Maverick dreads meeting with the claims agent at the store. Sekani says the family will go with Maverick so he doesn’t have to face the damage alone.
The family stares tearily at the ruins. Faced with the immensity of the damage, Maverick falters on whether he wants to rebuild. Mr. Lewis tells Maverick that he’s retiring and wants to give him the barbershop space to expand the store. In return, Mr. Lewis wants Maverick to put a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. alongside Huey Newton. Mr. Lewis tells Maverick that the neighborhood needs more men like him. The claims agent comes to inspect, and the family begins to clean out the store.
Kenya arrives. She tells Starr she’s proud of her for speaking out. Starr asks after Iesha. King beat Iesha badly enough to put her in the hospital. Kenya apologizes for always calling Seven her brother instead of their brother. Kenya worried that Seven was a brother to her out of obligation, but a brother to Starr out of love. She thought Seven was ashamed of her just like Starr was ashamed of her and Garden Heights. Starr decides to acknowledge the painful truth. She admits she had been ashamed but is not anymore. She promises Seven loves Kenya, Lyric, and Iesha. Lisa calls Starr back to work and asks whether Kenya wants to help them. Kenya asks what Starr’s family will do with the store. Starr says they’ll rebuild.
Starr brings the story back to Khalil and vows that she will not give up on fighting for a better ending. She names several real-life victims of police violence and Emmett Till. She believes that change will come because people will keep fighting and refusing to forget. She vows to Khalil that she will never forget and never give up.
Analysis: Chapter 26
Chapter Twenty-Six draws some distinct parallels to Chapter Three that highlight how Starr and other characters have grown throughout the novel to create a stronger family and community. In Chapter Three, Starr feels too paralyzed to speak for Khalil and she worries her fear disappoints Maverick. Now, Starr’s voice has carried so far that she appears on every news channel, and Maverick addresses her as “Li’l Black Panther,” expressing pride in seeing Starr continue the work of his heroes. Whereas Maverick and Lisa considered Sekani too young to even know about Starr’s ordeal, Sekani now not only knows about the store’s destruction, but maturely volunteers everyone to support Maverick. Mr. Lewis once accused Maverick of being a bad influence on the neighborhood, but now sees Maverick as a force for good because Maverick has become a community leader who actively fights against gang violence. These changes show how the events of The Hate U Give made the Carter family stronger individuals who support each other to be stronger together.
Deleting Hailey’s number signifies that Starr will no longer tone herself down to make her white classmates comfortable. Hailey wants their friendship back, but in their old relationship Hailey controlled the narrative of who Starr was, and Starr played a sidekick role. A return to their former friendship would therefore involve Starr ignoring all the hurt Hailey has caused over the course of the novel. Hailey’s apology expresses a desire to erase what happened instead of taking responsibility for her hurtful words and actions. Starr realizes that their friendship has no way forward because she does not want to shrink back into the old pattern. She invokes Lisa’s framework of weighing a person’s mistakes against her love for them, and finds Hailey lacking because Hailey’s actions have continuously not shown any care for Starr’s feelings.
In stark contrast to Hailey’s selfish apology, Starr’s apology to Kenya reaffirms their friendship because she takes responsibility for hurting Kenya and establishes a path forward for them. Starr can apologize to Kenya because she both understands that Kenya’s accusation that Starr was ashamed of Garden Heights was true, and that she can only heal if she owns up to her feelings and actions. By focusing on Kenya rather than herself, Starr recognizes that part of why Kenya claimed Seven was because of how Starr hurt Kenya with her shame. Furthermore, Starr realizes that her shame in Garden Heights also caused Kenya to feel shame over her difficult family life. When she reassures Kenya that Seven loves her, Lyric, and Iesha for themselves and not out of obligation, Starr works to break Kenya’s shame. Therefore, by bringing this shame out in the open, the two girls can reconcile and heal.
Starr’s bittersweet farewell to the reader transcends the boundaries of the novel and presents a call to action. Thomas lists the names of the real black men and women killed by law enforcement to remind us that while Khalil is fictional, his story has a lot in common with very real murders. By connecting those victims to Khalil, Starr challenges the reader to see the humanity in the victims and the injustice in their stories. She emphasizes that she will never forget Khalil or what happened to him, which suggests that readers, too, should not forget the names of the victims of police violence. Starr passes the torch to the reader by declaring that the only way things will change is if people still fight. If readers want police violence to end and the cycle of Thug Life to break, they must follow Starr’s lead and speak out for justice.