Chapter 22 takes place thirteen weeks after Khalil’s death. Starr’s family has moved into their new house in the suburbs, but to Starr it doesn’t feel like home yet. The grand jury is due to announce their decision in a few hours; feeling nervous, Starr calls Chris. The two hang out in Chris’s bedroom, and Starr tells Chris that they shouldn’t be together because of the difference in their races, backgrounds, and wealth. Chris reassures her that they should be together. When Starr tries to initiate sex, he tells her that it’s not a good time because she’s not in a good emotional place. Starr cries into his chest, and they fall asleep.
Starr wakes up a few hours later to a frantic call from Seven: Lisa and Carlos are out looking for Starr, and DeVante has been hurt. Seven picks Starr and Chris up, and they drive to King’s house. They find DeVante and Kenya in Iesha’s bedroom; DeVante is bruised and bloody because some King Lords jumped him while he was visiting his brother’s grave. King and his gang party in the backyard, waiting until sundown to kill DeVante.
Iesha walks into her bedroom and threatens to let King know that Seven is there. Ultimately, she tells Seven to take Kenya, Lyric, and DeVante and leave the house—an act of sacrifice, since King will undoubtedly take his anger out on Iesha once he finds out that DeVante is gone. Seven is angry at first that Iesha told him to leave so she could party, but Starr points out that she was trying to help. Seven turns the car around, wanting to protect Iesha from King, but the others convince him to accept his mother’s attempt to save him. As he turns the car once again, a radio program announces that the grand jury decided not to indict Officer Cruise.
The group sits in stunned silence as Seven drives them to his grandmother’s house. Starr gets angry that, after all her efforts, she was unable to get justice for Khalil. She decides that she wants to protest and riot—since the police don’t care about her, she doesn’t care about the police. Kenya takes Lyric into her grandmother’s house in case Iesha shows up, while Seven, Chris, DeVante, and Starr drive to Magnolia where protests are occurring.
They park and walk onto the street, where King Lords and Garden Disciples burn a police car together, then move onto burning and looting all the stores on the street that aren’t tagged with “Black owned” graffiti. Groups of people chant “Fuck the police!” to an NWA song playing on a speaker, while a line of police in riot gear march down the street, followed by tanks. As more explosions occur and smoke fills the street, Starr and her friends rush back to Seven’s car and drive away.
Back in the car, conversation turns to the differences between black and white people. Seven points out that Chris has fallen into the trap of the white standard when Chris asks why black people have “odd” names. The group decides to go help Maverick protect the store, but there are so many roadblocks that they are forced to go to the east side—Garden Disciples territory. Seven’s car runs out of gas, and they are forced to abandon it to walk down the street to a gas station.
On their way to the gas station, the group runs into more protests occurring on Carnation, the street where Khalil was shot. Starr sees Ms. Ofrah leading protest chants from the top of a patrol car. Ms. Ofrah is surprised to Starr out on the street. When Starr explains that she’s fed up and wants to protest, Ms. Ofrah asks Starr to fire her so if her parents find out that she helped Starr protest, she wasn’t acting as her attorney but as an activist. Then she hands Starr a bullhorn.
From the top of the police car, Starr speaks passionately to the crowd about the wrongness of Khalil’s death. She leads a chant, “Khalil lived!” before the police throw a can of tear gas at her. She picks up the can and hurls it back towards the police; chaos breaks out on the street. Stumbling and choking on tear gas, Starr, Seven, DeVante, and Chris are saved by Goon, the Cedar Grove King Lord who is a friend of Maverick’s. Goon lets them into his pickup truck and drives them to the store.
Protected by its “black owned” graffiti tag and boarded windows, the store has not been ruined by the riots. Once inside, Goon and those who were riding in his truck—including a national news anchor—grab milk from the aisles and pour it over their faces to alleviate the burning feeling in their eyes.
Starr checks her phone and realizes that her mother has left her increasingly irate voicemails; she saw Starr’s speech at the protest on TV. Seven and Starr reluctantly head to the store’s office to call Lisa back, knowing that she will be furious. Suddenly, a glass bottle with a flaming cloth tucked in the mouth soars through the window, and the store explodes.
Analysis of Chapters 22 - 24
The tender moment between Starr and Chris, where Starr finally seems to begin accepting that they should be together despite the vast differences in their upbringings, is an optimistic break before the waves of racial turmoil and anger that follow in the rest of this section. Although the jury fails to indict Officer Cruise, sparking widespread anger over this reinforcement of racism, Starr and Chris are one example of how differences in background can be overcome. Their relationship makes it clear that the practice of communication and acceptance would do well to help reduce “isms” in society.
Starr and the African-American Garden Heights community are deeply wounded by the fact that Khalil will not get justice for being shot while unarmed. However, Starr and her friends are not surprised by the decision. They are already accustomed to systemic racism and aware of the results of many grand jury decisions over police violence cases across the United States. The fact that Khalil is not indicted contributes to a theme of the book, that protest and the struggle for ultimate good is more important than isolated failures; rather than becoming entirely discouraged, Starr is still determined to fight for African-American rights.
This section also offers insight into the reasons that rioting and looting tend to follow jury decisions of this magnitude. While Starr had always steered clear of the riots before, she adopts the attitude that if the police don’t seem to care about African Americans, then she won’t care about the police. This is a continuation of the overwhelming anger that Starr felt when she fought Hailey. The discontent is so great that it can’t be contained without physical expression; Starr feels the need to do something even though the atmosphere is dangerous.
The conversation between Starr, DeVante, Seven, and Chris brings up an interesting exploration of the white standard. While Chris is not intentionally racist, he still exhibits a bias toward white cultural norms by referring to African-American names as odd or unusual. This conversation also offers a playful examination of what makes a person white or black. By “testing” Chris with examples of black culture, Starr, DeVante, and Seven push up against the question of what defines that culture.
Finally, a pivotal moment in the novel comes when Starr stands on the police car to speak. We have now seen a major transformation from when she was first afraid to let her voice to be heard: thirteen weeks later, she is yelling into a megaphone before a full crowd and throwing a can of tear gas back at the police. Kenya’s pointed advice to Starr not to be silent is fully realized in her brave stand at the protest on Carnation Street. Even though the jury failed to indict Officer Cruise, Starr is not cowed but determined to continue to stand up for justice.