Summary: Chapter 11
Hailey’s brother, Remy, plans to protest Khalil’s death as an excuse to play hooky. Hailey’s excited, although she isn’t happy they’re protesting a drug dealer’s death. Hailey believes Khalil’s dealing explains the shooting. Starr asks why Hailey wants to protest if she thinks Khalil’s murder was justified. Hailey dismisses Starr’s anger. Starr storms off, furious her classmates can use Khalil’s death as a break from school. Starr cannot take a break from her reality.
During first period, students leave the classroom, shouting, “Justice for Khalil.” Starr feels sick at her classmates making light of Khalil’s death. She remains in her seat. Chris asks Starr if she knew Khalil, and she admits she did. The teacher asks if Starr would like to go home, but Starr wants the distraction of school. Some white students explain to Starr that they aren’t protesting because they don’t want to use Khalil’s death as an excuse to play hooky. She hates being treated like the token black person.
When Starr and Seven pick Sekani up, Sekani asks if they will be on television because a news crew is covering the protest. They tell Sekani no, and drive to the family store. From the window they see reporters interviewing Mr. Lewis. Mr. Lewis tells reporters that King Lords attacked some police officers unprovoked in retaliation for Khalil. He blames the King Lords for all the neighborhood violence. Mr. Lewis names King as the leader of the King Lords, which could put Mr. Lewis in danger of retaliation from King.
Maverick asks Mr. Lewis why he put his life in danger. Mr. Lewis claims that he’s not afraid of King because he lived through worse during segregation. The police overhear the argument and intervene, ignoring Mr. Lewis’s insistence that they were having a conversation. Their expressions change when they read Maverick’s ID. Starr realizes they know he’s related to her, Khalil’s witness. The police pin Maverick to the ground. The police order the gathering residents to go back to their normal business. The residents insist that this is their business. The police pat Maverick down and then let him up, warning him that they’re watching him.
Maverick storms into his office and pounds on the table. Mr. Lewis encourages Maverick to let his anger out. Starr remembers how Maverick says since slavery, all black men have carried this rage. One of the neighbors comments that the police attacked Maverick because of Starr’s witness statement. Maverick is shaken that people know about Starr. Kenya asks Starr why she hasn’t told anyone that she’s the witness. Starr says she’s afraid, and that talking to the police changed nothing. Kenya shouts that Starr would defend her Williamson friends, but won’t defend Khalil. Kenya argues that Starr has the chance to change the neighborhood. Starr feels ashamed.
Starr heads to Maverick’s office where he is giving Sekani the police talk. Maverick hates that his children saw what the police did to him. Starr tells Maverick that Kenya called her a coward, and that she believes there’s truth in the accusation. Starr tells Maverick that she’s afraid, especially after seeing how the police treated him. Maverick tells her that she should not let fear be the reason why she doesn’t talk because that is what the police want. He promises he will have her back when she’s ready.
Analysis: Chapter 11
Remy’s insensitive protest demonstrates how white communities co-opt black experiences and movements for their own ends. This protest actively hurts Starr by forcing her to watch her friends and classmates trivialize a traumatic event and not allowing her the distraction class usually provides. The protest places an undue burden on Starr as she handles both her own grief and trauma, and the guilt of white students who approach her to clarify why they are not participating and want reassurance. Their insistence highlights Starr’s isolation at Williamson as a black girl at a predominantly white school, and how she is forced to be the token representative of black communities overall. While Starr spent the weekend watching people from her neighborhood facing tear gas for their sincere protest, the students at Williamson get media coverage for their fake protest but no retaliation. This disparity highlights how society rewards white people for the same actions it punishes black people for.
The police’s attack on Maverick emphasizes that law enforcement has prioritized a semblance of order over the safety of the community. Mr. Lewis, who has asked the police for their help in eliminating violence from the community, objects to their attacking Maverick because Mr. Lewis knows Maverick is not dangerous. However, the police ignore Mr. Lewis both because they view Maverick as threatening—in a parallel of Khalil’s death—and because they seek retaliation for Starr’s testimony. This decision shows that their policing does not tend to the wants and needs of the community. Furthermore, the police order the neighbors to leave, and only let Maverick up when they realize that they have witnesses. This entire encounter demonstrates the ways in which law enforcement creates more everyday violence when they police what they believe are threats over what the community knows is dangerous.
Maverick and Mr. Lewis’s connection in this chapter addresses the generational trauma black people carry with them. Before the police attack, Mr. Lewis mentions the violence he faced during segregation, which reminds the reader that violence from white communities is not new, but has historical precedent. Starr connects Maverick’s outburst to the anger of enslaved black men who could not protect their families, which draws the timeline back even further, meaning that black families have carried this trauma for over a century. Toward the end of the chapter, the interactions between Maverick and Mr. Lewis show black men helping each other cope with the effects of this generational pain. The way Mr. Lewis encourages Maverick to let his anger out comes from a place of mutual understanding and shared experience. Based on his earlier comment about segregation, Mr. Lewis has felt this rage too.
Starr finally gains the courage to speak in this chapter after Kenya reminds her of what’s at stake. Kenya articulates the distance built between Starr’s Garden Heights and Williamson selves. Kenya accuses Starr of abandoning the neighborhood and Khalil for an easier and safer life, and states that Starr’s abandonment will allow the violence in the neighborhood to continue. Because Starr did not want to admit her shame and fear of Garden Heights, Kenya’s accusation forces her to reexamine her choices and priorities. However, from the police attack on Maverick, the reader knows that Starr’s fears of retaliation are very real, emphasizing the difficulty and danger of this choice. In fact, the final decision factor for Starr comes when Maverick promises to protect her. Combined with Maverick’s Thug Life speech in the previous chapter, Starr now has both personal and political reasons to speak out.