Summary: Chapter 7
Khalil’s name appears for the first time in the news, but the report calls him a suspected drug dealer.
Meanwhile, Starr and her friends wait in the gym for class to start. Starr has forgiven Chris but doesn’t know how to handle Chris’s whiteness. She worries that by dating a white boy she is betraying her community.
Hailey gets angry over a group of girls flirting instead of playing competitively during a girls versus boys basketball game. She drags Maya and Starr onto the court. The boys agree to a game. Chris joins the game and guards Starr as an excuse to talk with her. When Chris scores, Hailey tells Starr to pretend the ball is fried chicken.
Shocked, Starr runs to the locker room. Hailey and Maya follow her, concerned. Starr demands to know why Hailey made a fried chicken joke. Hailey protests that it was fried chicken day at the cafeteria and is furious Starr would accuse her of racism. Hailey asks if Starr is upset about the drug dealer from her neighborhood. Maya asks if Starr knew Khalil. Starr realizes that by labeling Khalil a drug dealer, the media has cemented how the public perceives him. She worries that everyone at Williamson will see her as a thug if they know she was friends with Khalil. She denies knowing Khalil but instantly regrets it.
Hailey continues to interrogate Starr about her mood and asks if it’s the anniversary of Natasha’s death. Hailey claims to understand because she gets upset during the anniversary of her mother’s death, but admonishes Starr not to accuse friends of racism over grief. Starr silently blames herself for being a bad friend to Chris, Hailey, Natasha, and Khalil. She begins to sob. Her coach sends her to the school therapist. As much as Starr fears being an angry black girl, she fears being a weak black girl more. Instead of going to the therapist, she calls Uncle Carlos and asks him to pick her up.
Starr tells Uncle Carlos that she doesn’t know whether she deserves to go to Khalil’s funeral. Uncle Carlos assures Starr she would regret skipping, but admits he’s unsure he’ll be welcome because he is a cop. Starr asks Uncle Carlos if he would have shot Khalil. Uncle Carlos admits he doesn’t know what he would have done. Starr cries that One-Fifteen pointed his gun at her, which shocks Uncle Carlos. He hugs her and apologizes.
Summary: Chapter 8
Starr’s family arrives at Khalil’s funeral. When Starr takes her turn to view the casket, she thinks Khalil’s corpse looks like a mannequin. An usher leads her family to the front row, and Starr feels uncomfortable with the prominent position. She tries to distract herself with the funeral program, but sees a photo of Khalil, Natasha, and herself. She is the only member of their trio left.
Pastor Eldridge declares that despite the tragedy, the funeral is a homegoing celebration. Khalil’s classmates share high school stories about him that Starr never heard, increasing her fear that she was not a true friend. Afterward, April Ofrah, a member of an organization called Just Us for Justice, informs the congregation that the police do not intend to arrest One-Fifteen and that Khalil had been unarmed. Ms. Ofrah invites the crowd to join a peaceful march in protest. Before Pastor Eldridge can conclude the service, the King Lords arrive. They place a gray bandana on Khalil’s casket, insinuating Khalil was a King Lord. Ms. Rosalie throws the bandana at King. Iesha mocks Ms. Rosalie for treating King crudely despite his offer to pay for the funeral. Ms. Rosalie retorts that she doesn’t want his money and calls Iesha a prostitute.
Starr explains the dynamic between King, Maverick, and Iesha. After a fight with Lisa, Maverick hired Iesha as a prostitute with King’s blessing. Seven was conceived during their one-night stand. However, Lisa loves Seven as if he were her biological son.
The mourners whisper about Khalil’s King Lord membership as the service ends. Starr questions whether King lied about Khalil, but the bandana seems like indisputable evidence. Starr despairs that she hadn’t tried to talk Khalil out of joining the gang. Khalil’s aunt tells Starr that she meant a lot to Khalil, and Starr breaks down. She cries because both Natasha and Khalil have left her. Maverick takes Seven and Sekani to march with Just Us for Justice, but Lisa takes Starr home to grieve.
Before Lisa and Starr leave, Ms. Ofrah approaches them to commend Starr on her bravery for speaking with the police. Ms. Ofrah explains that she is also a lawyer and wants to offer her services as Khalil’s case gains national attention. She gives Starr her card and tells her to call when she’s ready. Starr wonders if she will ever be ready.
Analysis: Chapters 7-8
Starr’s recognition of Chris’s whiteness leads her to question her motivations for dating Chris. Because One-Fifteen represents a society that values white lives over black—and Chris is white like One-Fifteen—Starr must ask herself whether dating Chris means complying with this value system. This train of thought raises the question of whether she began dating Chris because she likes him or because she chose his white privilege and the security it represented over dating a black boy, possibly even Khalil himself. Starr considers her choice while looking at Chris, not talking to him, largely because this thought process has nothing to do with Chris as a person and everything with what Chris represents. Before Khalil’s death, the biggest problem in her relationship with Chris was the common teenage problem of determining whether to have sex. Now sex has been eclipsed by complicated questions about what dating a white boy means. Because of the way racism affects her life, Starr cannot date someone without it becoming a larger philosophical question.
In response to Starr’s pain over the fried chicken joke, Hailey actively weaponizes her whiteness against Starr to avoid taking responsibility for the hurt she causes. Starr fears becoming the “angry black girl,” leading Starr to downplay her feelings because she understands her emotions can be used to turn her into a stereotype. Starr’s fears come to pass in this scene when Hailey suggests that Starr’s emotions have clouded her judgement. Hailey even uses their shared grief over losing loved ones against Starr. When Hailey mentions how upset she gets during the anniversary of her mother’s death, she sets herself up as the mature person in their friendship who does not lash out at her friends even when grief surfaces. Hailey uses the fact that Starr is emotional over something as a means of dismissing Starr’s ability to identify when something is hurtful. Hailey shifts Starr to the aggressor in their conflict, not unlike how One-Fifteen turned Khalil into the aggressor. The system of whiteness that Hailey and One-Fifteen represent makes racism the fault of the black people it hurts.
Starr blames herself for denying Khalil, but by placing Starr’s lie after the incident with Hailey, Thomas signals that racism has made it difficult for Starr to speak about difficult experiences tied to her blackness. Starr’s denial of Khalil is not about the Khalil she knew, but about the Khalil reported in the media as a drug dealer. Because of Hailey’s dismissive attitude toward Khalil, Starr knows that an association with Khalil will change how her friends treat her. Notably, when Starr blames herself for being a bad friend, she places denying Khalil in the same sentence as pushing Hailey away. We know, however, that it is Hailey who causes the rift between them because of her discomfort with the difficult aspects of Starr’s blackness.
Khalil’s funeral has two interruptions—one from Ms. Ofrah and one from King—which demonstrates the way the violent circumstances of Khalil’s death leaves those who mourn him without comfort and closure. Although Pastor Eldridge insists Khalil’s funeral should be a joyful occasion, Ms. Ofrah’s interruption reminds the mourners that Khalil’s death was an injustice that the police refuse to address, a cause for anger and a call to protest. Instead of focusing on Khalil’s “homegoing,” the mourners will have to fight for the justice system to do its job. The King Lords’s interruption stirs questions and doubt instead of providing closure. King deprives the mourners of the opportunity to reflect on their memories of Khalil and forces them to wonder how well they knew him, robbing Khalil of his innocence at his own funeral. Lisa must bring Starr home to mourn because the funeral contained no space for Starr to simply grieve.
After his death, Khalil is flattened out for other people to use as a symbol. Upon seeing the corpse, Starr can only think about how the body is not really Khalil because of the makeup and lack of dimples, and he looks like a mannequin. That is, in death Khalil no longer gets to be himself; others choose how to arrange him. To the police and people like Mr. Lewis, Khalil is a drug dealer, a stereotype they can shorthand to justify his death as necessary or inevitable. When the King Lords bring the bandana, they stake a claim over Khalil that no one can contradict, and the gossip they create changes the perception of Khalil, overshadowing the funeral with rumors. Now that Khalil is dead, other people can decide how they want to define him, and those narrations often do not encompass Khalil’s true, nuanced identity.