When They Call You a Terrorist

by

Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

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When They Call You a Terrorist: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Monte has always been Patrisse’s closest sibling and was her first best friend. It will take her over a decade to unpack the wound of losing him to the system when she was only a teenager. He was tortured by the police so young. (“Torture” is different from “abuse” in that it is premeditated and intentionally used to destroy people and communities.) A 2011 ACLU report proves that terrorism and torture started in the U.S. prison system long before September 11th (and Abu Ghraib). Patrisse reads the report weeks after Monte is released from prison. It is 86 pages and full of testimonies from survivors who prove that torture was pervasive in the LA County Jail for at least two decades.
Abu Ghraib is a prison in Iraq that the U.S. government used to house suspected terrorists during the War on Iraq (following the September 11th attacks). The torture and abuse that guards inflicted on suspects there (many of whom were not formally charged) received criticism from the media as well as opponents of the war. Patrisse argues here that the sort of torture inmates experiments in the LA County Jail prior to September 11, 2001 is a comparable level of violence.
Themes
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
The report tells stories of prisoners being kicked in the testicles, beaten by several deputies at once, and tased for no reason. One wheelchair-bound prisoner was thrown to the floor, beaten, and shot with pepper spray. Patrisse remembers Monte drinking out of the toilet and feels like she can’t breathe. Another inmate describes an officer forcing a flashlight into a prisoner’s rectum, making him bleed profusely, and how the man didn’t say anything because the last person who did was tortured even worse. Many had bones broken or eyes popped out, or were assaulted after losing consciousness. Officers encouraged inmates to rape men they wanted to punish. The staff all knew what was happening, including the sheriff.
The extreme torture and violence that inmates in the LA County Jail faced contributes to Patrisse’s belief that prisons exist not only to control and contain people, but also to actively abuse them. That Patrisse can’t breathe while thinking of Monte drinking out of the toilet suggests that she now believes this is something that the guards forced him to do as part of their widespread abuse.
Themes
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Related Quotes
Reading this report helps Patrisse understand more fully what happened to Monte. His story is not included, but he is a survivor, and so is their family. She remembers when Cherice desperately called the jails the first time Monte was arrested and how no one would tell her where he was being held. Patrisse starts to cry and calls Cherice and Monte, explaining that the ACLU is suing the LA County Jail for torturing people. After a pause, Cherice says, “Thank God,” and Monte whispers, “Finally.”
That no one would tell Cherice where Monte was being held is an example of how the prison system treats inmates (many of whom are poor and Black, like Patrisse’s family) as if their lives do not matter. Patrisse writing that their family are survivors is a nod to how prisoners’ families and loved ones also face the consequences of this sort of abuse (such as supporting Monte through his PTSD flashbacks). 
Themes
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Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
Patrisse knows immediately that she wants to make an art piece about the report. She gathers four performer friends and blows the pages of the report up to 8 x 11 feet. She records audio of Cherice’s written notes on her phone calls to the jail and asks a local art space if they will host her piece, Stained. When people enter, they see testimonies on the walls, stories of brutal torture. The performers are separated by caution tape and stand alone, as if in solitary confinement. One exercises until he collapses, one alternates between crying and laughing, one paces in circles, one jumps continuously. The recorded audio of Cherice’s notes plays, along with recordings of the sheriff being questioned about how he let this happen.
With this art piece, Patrisse is highlighting multiple forms of violence that prisons enact on inmates (many of whom are poor and Black): violently torturing them, isolating them in solitary confinement, caging them so they can’t exercise or move, and negatively affecting their mental health. Including audio recordings of Cherice’s notes from trying to locate Monte shows, again, how inmates being treated as disposable deeply affects families as well.
Themes
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Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
Get the entire When They Call You a Terrorist LitChart as a printable PDF.
When They Call You a Terrorist PDF
After the show tours for two years, Patrisse’s friend from the Strategy Center encourages her to do more to make sure this violence stops. In September 2012, they launch a campaign: The Coalition to End Sheriff Violence. To achieve their goal of establishing civilian oversight of the sheriff’s department, Patrisse realizes, they need to start their own organization. Though she loves the Strategy Center and has learned so much there—including their successful campaign to stop truancy fines—she starts her own non-profit, Dignity and Power Now. And in 2016, they win their campaign. 
Though Patrisse has been a community organizer for several years, this is the start of her leaning into her leadership and starting her own campaign, followed by her own organization. That she is part of a successful campaign to end truancy fines for students and then successfully leads the campaign to establish civilian oversight of the sheriff’s department shows that the type of organizing she’s doing has the power to bring about real change.
Themes
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon