Summary: Chapter 14
Starr goes to Maya’s house where Maya and Hailey are hanging out. Hailey asks why Starr is mad at them. Hailey feels they shouldn’t have to apologize for protesting because others protested too. Hailey adds that Starr still owes her an apology for calling her racist. Starr says even if Hailey didn’t mean it, the fried chicken joke felt racist. Hailey complains that by that logic, if she felt protesting was right, Starr’s objection doesn’t matter.
Starr, Hailey, and Maya decide to watch television and find the interview with One-Fifteen’s father. The screen displays a photo of One-Fifteen wearing a crucifix necklace. One-Fifteen’s father notes that Garden Heights is dangerous, and the screen shows the worst parts of the neighborhood. As One-Fifteen’s father describes what a good child One-Fifteen was, Starr notes Khalil had been good too.
One-Fifteen’s father claims that Khalil had been speeding, and that Khalil and Starr acted as if they were planning to attack. He says Khalil threatened One-Fifteen, so One-Fifteen thought the object in the car was a gun. One-Fifteen’s father laments that his son just wanted to get home. Starr notes that she and Khalil wanted to go home too. Since the shooting, One-Fifteen has been attacked at work. Starr remembers Uncle Carlos’s bruised knuckles and realizes he hit One-Fifteen.
Hailey proclaims One-Fifteen’s life matters too. Starr tries to leave the room. Hailey asks why Starr disagrees, and Starr cries that his life always matters more. Starr asks Hailey if she unfollowed her Tumblr because of the Emmett Till post. Hailey explodes, shouting that Starr called her racist. Starr protests that she never brought up race. Hailey leaves, screaming she doesn’t know who Starr is anymore. Maya reveals that Hailey unfollowed Starr because of her posts about black issues. Maya knows Hailey can be racist. Freshman year, Hailey asked if Maya—who is Chinese—ate cat for Thanksgiving. Starr and Maya agree to confront Hailey’s racism together.
Starr returns to Uncle Carlos’s house. She asks Uncle Carlos whether he hit One-Fifteen. Uncle Carlos admits that he punched One-Fifteen when he learned One-Fifteen pointed a gun at Starr. Uncle Carlos says he became a cop to protect Starr and Garden Heights. Starr objects that he can’t protect them if he’s fired. Uncle Carlos says anyone who would shoot someone for opening a car door shouldn’t be a cop and feels guilty for not helping Khalil. He promises Starr he wouldn’t have shot Khalil.
Summary: Chapter 15
When Starr won’t eat pancakes, Lisa quizzes Starr about what’s wrong. Starr reveals what DeVante said about Khalil. She feels guilty for doubting Khalil. Lisa reminds Starr she didn’t know about Khalil’s plight. She adds she knows Starr had a crush on Khalil. Starr is ashamed because she’s dating Chris. Lisa reassures her that being attracted to multiple people is normal.
Starr mentions she’s starting to wonder why she’s friends with Hailey. Lisa suggests making a list of the good and bad parts of their friendship. She explains that people make mistakes, and Starr must decide whether their mistake is bigger than her love for them.
They go to the District Attorney’s office. The DA explains the grand jury proceedings and asks Starr questions. When she gets to the moment of Khalil’s death, Starr begins to vomit. Lisa brings Starr to the store and orders Maverick to take care of Starr despite their fight. Chastened, Maverick holds Starr and lets her cry.
Maverick asks why Starr is dating a white boy. Starr says she likes Chris, and Chris cares about her. Maverick admits he was afraid Starr was dating a white boy because his relationship with Lisa scared her. Starr protests that Maverick has shown her what a good man should be.
King arrives, and Starr hides in the office. King asks where DeVante is. Maverick claims DeVante disappeared. King threatens Maverick over Starr’s testimony because King doesn’t want the police knowing more information about Khalil’s dealings. Maverick threatens King for threatening Starr.
After dinner, Maverick suggests that they go look at houses before Lisa’s upcoming job interview. He announces they’re moving. Lisa pulls him into their bedroom. Sekani asks if they’re really moving. Seven says that he won’t be coming because he doesn’t want to leave Iesha, Kenya, and Lyric with King. Starr asks about college, and Seven says he’ll attend Central Community to be near his sisters.
Analysis: Chapters 14 & 15
Hailey’s fixation on the word “racist” allows her to avoid taking responsibility for her words. Throughout the entire argument with Starr, Hailey expresses shock and dismay that a friend would call her racist, as if racist were a slur. However, Starr has not called Hailey racist, but expressed hurt at Hailey’s racist words and actions. Since Hailey does not acknowledge the difference, she acts as if Starr insulted her personhood instead of addressing the behavior that hurt Starr’s feelings. Furthermore, Hailey treats the friction between them as Starr overreacting to differences of opinion. For example, Hailey compares her feelings about the protest to Starr’s distress about the fried chicken joke, implying that she doesn’t have to understand Starr’s point of view if Starr won’t understand Hailey’s. However, Starr’s feelings about the fried chicken joke connect to the joke’s racist history. The protest only mattered to Hailey as an excuse to play hooky, so her anger stems from not liking that Starr called out her insensitivity. Since Hailey refuses to differentiate between a critique of her actions and a critique of her character, Starr cannot have a productive discussion about why she’s upset.
The interview with One-Fifteen’s father shows how white people use stereotypes to portray black people as dangerous and justify their deaths. In order to portray Starr and Khalil as violent, his account differs significantly from Starr’s narration in Chapter Two. The media bolsters this account with images of dangerous parts of Garden Heights, making Starr and Khalil seem dangerous by association. Even though Starr notes the ridiculousness of portraying two teenagers as “superhuman” enough to hurt an armed police officer, the stereotypes invoked mean that some people, like Hailey, will not question this account. Furthermore, One-Fifteen’s father uses positive archetypes of white people to make One-Fifteen seem innocent. The cross necklace One-Fifteen wears invokes Christianity as a shorthand for morality and goodness. One-Fifteen’s father also emphasizes that One-Fifteen has a family and children, which portrays him as an upstanding family man unlikely to do wrong. However, these positive portrayals erase that Khalil had a family and a future ahead of himself. The interview sets up a narrative where One-Fifteen’s life has great importance and has to be defended at all costs, whereas Khalil’s life is acceptable collateral damage.
Uncle Carlos changes his mind about One-Fifteen because Starr makes the incident personal for Uncle Carlos and impossible to rationalize. Uncle Carlos could distance himself from Khalil, whom he had not seen in a few years, but he knows Starr as well as a daughter. He can no longer deny the reality that Starr’s goodness, her prep school education, nor her being partially raised by him could protect her from police threats because One-Fifteen saw her blackness instead of seeing a sixteen-year-old girl. Uncle Carlos reevaluates his priorities as a police officer and returns to his original intent to protect Starr and Garden Heights. His new framework relies on evaluating the situation before him, not relying on stereotypes, and that means not shooting someone for opening a car door—no matter where they’re from.
Lisa offers Starr a new framework for judging people that begins from a place of love, as opposed to the media’s framework of judging people based on their worst mistakes. Lisa’s suggestion to always weigh the bad against the good acknowledges that bad and good exists within every person. This framework explains that Lisa did not stay with Maverick out of blind love for him, but because she carefully considered how her love for Maverick compared to his actions and found his goodness outweighed his mistake. She also says that her judgement of Maverick would change if he cheated on her again, which acknowledges that the good and bad within a relationship shifts over time. Whereas the media holds Khalil’s drug dealing as proof of his badness, and Starr completely dismissed DeVante because of his gang connections, Lisa advocates judging people based on the bigger picture of their lives, and not forgetting that even good people can make terrible mistakes under certain circumstances.