Nevertheless, Thomas hints that Starr’s fear and grief do not actually let Maverick down, and her family will give her room to grow. Lisa offers Starr the option of eating regular bacon instead of turkey bacon, violating a part of The Nation of Islam’s tenets, because Lisa wants to offer Starr something comforting after her ordeal. Maverick gripes but does not actually object, signaling that it’s OK for Starr not to perfectly match his ideals, especially in a time of grief. In addition, Maverick’s nurturing comes out when he tends to his garden and insists that a garden needs conversation to grow. A conversation is a two-way means of communication, not a lecture or monologue. Maverick’s tender care signals that he, despite his loudness, does not want to be a domineering figure in his children’s lives. He wants to allow his children, like his roses, space to grow. We see this in practice when Maverick doesn’t force Starr to talk about the shooting.
Starr’s flashback to Natasha’s death complicates our understanding of Starr’s grief and fear because Khalil’s death signals that attending Williamson did not make Starr’s life safer. Now Starr has lost two best friends, each one killed by violence in her community, and in both cases, Starr narrowly escaped becoming a victim herself. Lisa addressed the gang issue by sending Starr to Williamson, but this move could not address the dangers of the police. One-Fifteen shot Khalil because he believed that Khalil being black made him dangerous. Therefore, racism against black people put Starr in danger during Khalil’s murder, not Garden Heights or the type of blackness associated with Garden Heights. Williamson cannot keep Starr safe because existing as a black girl in a racist society is not safe. Some of her fear comes from the realization that distancing herself from life in Garden Heights did not actually protect her.
Chapter Three introduces the way Garden Heights residents look out for each other’s welfare, breaking the stereotype of it being a bleak, dangerous neighborhood. In fact, the dangers of Garden Heights create a situation in which neighbors bond together. Business owners take an active interest in the community, like Mr. Reuben, who rewards good students, encouraging them toward the academic achievement not expected in poor neighborhoods. While Starr must minimize her poverty around her Williamson friends, the residents of Garden Heights treat poverty as a condition to be alleviated, not to be ashamed of, as with Mrs. Rooks’s immediate action to raise money for Khalil’s family. However, not all help in Garden Heights is genuine. King offers Starr money because he expects Maverick to help him hide a drug shipment, showcasing the way he mimics the genuine generosity of other Garden Heights residents for his own devices.
Maverick and Uncle Carlos’s argument sets up an important dichotomy between them that maps directly onto Starr’s two worlds. Maverick is the Garden Heights father, who prioritizes a vision of blackness that operates independently from white people. Uncle Carlos is the Williamson father, who through his life in a gated community and employment as a cop has assimilated into whiteness. Their clashes throughout the novel evoke two different expressions of being black. They also map onto the two sources of violence in Garden Heights: Maverick as a former gang member and Uncle Carlos as a police officer. At this juncture, the clear animosity between them and their separate worldviews seem irreconcilable, emphasized by their being tied with the separate worlds of Garden Heights and the suburbs. However, the clear love Maverick and Uncle Carlos feel for Starr represents the potential for both these kinds of blackness to form who Starr will be.
The difficult visit to Khalil’s family introduces the way stereotypes of blackness flatten the complexity of black lives into caricatures. Because Starr has just overheard Uncle Carlos call Khalil dangerous, she is keenly aware that stereotyping Khalil as a drug dealer can erase his humanity even to people who knew him. She also knows it affects the way he will function as a “hashtag,” a talking point in the social media backlash against his death, because he was not a perfect victim. This framing reduces the value of Khalil’s life to his utility in the fight against police violence. Ms. Rosalie’s unconditional love for Khalil re-centers Starr’s thoughts and reminds her that nothing can make Khalil just a drug dealer or just a hashtag. Even if no one can use Khalil’s story because of the connotations of being a drug dealer, Khalil was still loved by his family and friends.