When They Call You a Terrorist

by

Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

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When They Call You a Terrorist: Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Patrisse takes the pregnancy test because her period is late, and she feels sick. When she tells JT she is pregnant, he does not acknowledge her and then looks at her with fear and sadness. She doesn’t know how to respond—they had talked about having a baby—so she goes outside to call Future. Future is genderqueer and a leader of BLM Toronto (where unarmed Black people are also being killed by police), so their friendship for the past year has been mostly virtual. They bond over their commitment to building a different world and feel deep respect for each other. When they met just a month ago at a conference, Patrisse was intensely drawn to Future, but she ignored her attraction to them because she was preparing to have a baby with JT.
Patrisse uses the pronouns “they/them/theirs” for Future because Future is genderqueer and does not identify as a man or a woman. Future is organizing protests against police killings of Black people in Toronto, which suggests that police treating Black people as disposable extends beyond the U.S. That Patrisse turns to Future when JT is emotionally unavailable hints at their special bond.
Themes
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
When Patrisse told Future about her relationship with JT and the potential baby, they were respectful. They talked about their families together, and Patrisse learned that Future was split up from their siblings in foster care due to their mother’s mental illness. They tell Patrisse they will support her in having a baby and stay true to their word when JT does not. Even though they’ve only known each other a short time, calling Future to tell them the news feels natural. They say they are happy and ask Patrisse how they can be supportive, which makes Patrisse feel like she and the baby are going to be okay.
Future’s early childhood experience underlines how existing at the intersections of being poor, Black, and disabled (as their mother was) means facing specific challenges that other Black people do not. Despite Future and Patrisse both having traumatic experiences of being split up from family members at a young age (Future went into foster care, and Patrisse’s brother and father went to prison), they are committed to being present with each other and healing together.
Themes
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
Days later, JT hides when he is supposed to drive Patrisse to her first doctor’s appointment, so she calls Carla. After learning the baby is healthy, Patrisse feels that she can do this and that she already loves the baby. Later, she asks Future if they will be present at the birth, and they say of course. They talk about what it means to have a baby in the middle of a movement that is fighting for the lives of Black children and agree this is not the way they imagined becoming parents. But they love each other and the baby so much already. And Patrisse’s relationship with JT will heal, too, after a restorative mediation process where he shares his unresolved grief at losing family members in the midst of so much public loss.
Patrisse and Future are afraid for their future baby because anti-Black racism and police brutality means that child growing up at risk of violence. Patrisse and JT going through a restorative mediation process to understand each other’s feelings and pain shows how, as chosen family, they refuse to throw each other away even when things get hard. They don’t believe in punishing people the way that the criminal justice system has tried to teach them they should.
Themes
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
Patrisse moves out of her home with JT and couch surfs for three months, spending some time in Toronto where Future cares for her through nausea and exhaustion. They are in love, and this is the first time Patrisse feels fully cared for. They find a two-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood and get to work on moving Future to LA. When Patrisse is five months pregnant, she goes to Toronto to help Future move, and Future surprises her with a party where they propose to her, saying they knew they were meant to be from the moment they met. Patrisse says yes. Days later, Patrisse goes to the hospital in pain and learns she has pelvic flooring disorder. She pays no fees and is amazed by Canada’s healthcare system.
Future continues to show Patrisse what healing in a romantic relationship can look like after several relationships caused her harm. Patrisse’s experience going to a hospital in Canada and not having to pay for the emergency services she received exemplifies how policies seemingly unrelated to race can still lead to a world where Black lives matter. While in the U.S. this experience might have put her into debt, in Canada she is treated as a person deserving of care, no matter how much money she has.
Themes
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
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After leaving the hospital, Patrisse and Future decide to go back to LA early. Patrisse gets through security fine, but Future is detained for hours and not allowed through. Patrisse learns this while in an airport wheelchair, unable to walk, and feels completely defeated. Future has been the only consistent thing in her life lately. She stays in Canada with Future for a couple days and then heads back to LA alone. Her friends and Cherice carry her through the next three weeks as she helps Future with their immigration documents. Future is again detained on their way to LA but finally allowed through.
Future’s experience with immigration highlights another form of intersecting identities—Future is a genderqueer Black person and also a non-U.S. citizen. That they are not allowed to enter the U.S. and interrogated for hours shows the types of obstacles that non-U.S. citizens (especially those of color) face when trying to legally enter the country. While Future is gone, Patrisse’s family and community shows up for her, showing the sort of healing relationships she has intentionally cultivated over the years.
Themes
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
In Patrisse’s ninth month of pregnancy, she and Future get married in Malibu. (After the immigration challenges, they decided to have their wedding sooner.) Mark Anthony is among the 20 loved ones present and tells Patrisse how happy he is for her. Three and a half weeks later, Patrisse goes into labor, but the baby is breech. After 36 hours of labor, she rushes to the hospital, where her baby, Shine, is born. After, she is in immense pain because the doctors refuse to give her enough pain medication. Patrisse, Future, and Shine leave the hospital five days later and marvel at the gentle baby. Patrisse wants to hold him forever and keep him safe from the world. Two weeks later, Future decides they have to be in Toronto as protests develop in the wake of Andrew Loku’s murder, and they are gone for three weeks.
Mark Anthony attending Patrisse and Future’s wedding, even though he is Patrisse’s ex-husband, shows how much work they have both put into healing that relationship and not throwing each other away. Patrisse’s experience of not being given enough pain medication in the hospital highlights the reality that healthcare providers often treat Black women—who exist at the intersections of racism and sexism—as if they have a higher pain tolerance or are somehow less fragile than women of other racial groups, though this is not the case. Future heading back to Canada to respond to another police killing shows the unrelenting nature of police violence.
Themes
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon