When They Call You a Terrorist

by

Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

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Trayvon Martin Symbol Analysis

Trayvon Martin Symbol Icon

Trayvon Martin symbolizes Patrisse’s belief that Black lives don’t matter (to policymakers, the criminal justice system, or fellow citizens) in the U.S. Trayvon was a 17-year-old young Black man from Florida whom a neighborhood watchman fatally shot in 2012 while Trayvon was walking home at night. For Patrisse, Trayvon’s death represents the unjust killing of Black people more generally, and she uses it to support her argument that Black lives historically haven’t mattered and still don’t matter in the U.S.

Patrisse suggests that Trayvon Martin’s case was not the first or the last time a Black American was unjustly killed, but that his story nevertheless represents this disturbing trend. The case gained traction because many people believed that Trayvon’s killer was clearly at fault based on the available evidence. Patrisse maintains that Trayvon is one of many examples of young Black men being wrongfully stereotyped as violent and dangerous, and that he was simply walking home with a hood on, carrying snacks he’d just bought, when he was killed. Furthermore, when Trayvon’s killer called the police to report Trayvon, he disobeyed the police dispatcher’s request to leave Trayvon alone.

Patrisse describes how Black community organizers across the U.S. raised awareness about Trayvon’s story via rallies and the media before the killer’s trial began. Still, it wasn’t until after Trayvon’s killer was found not guilty of all charges in July 2013 that Trayvon became a symbol for Black victims of violence whose lives did not matter to other people. In this way, his story became the impetus for Patrisse launching the Black Lives Matter movement.

Trayvon Martin Quotes in When They Call You a Terrorist

The When They Call You a Terrorist quotes below all refer to the symbol of Trayvon Martin. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the St. Martin's Griffin edition of When They Call You a Terrorist published in 2020.
Chapter 11 Quotes

And then my friend Alicia writes a Facebook post. Alicia, who I’d known for seven years at this point, who I’d met at a political gathering in Rhode Island where at the end of the day our goal was to dance until we couldn’t dance anymore […] she writes these words in the wake of the acquittal:

btw stop saying that we are not surprised. that’s a damn shame in itself. I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter. And I will continue that. stop giving up on black life. black people, I will NEVER give up on us. NEVER.

And then I respond. I wrote back with a hashtag:

#BlackLivesMatter

Related Symbols: Trayvon Martin
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

And then I ask the people there on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills to please just stop for a moment, to hold space for Trayvon Martin, to hold space for his parents left in grief and an unspeakable pain. And when I do that it seems like the police are going to pounce; they move in closer and closer and I am scared. But I ask again for a moment of remembrance for Trayvon, and as far as I can tell, every single person within reach of my voice, and all of them white as far as I can see, puts down their champagne glass and their silver fork and stops checking their phone or having their conversation and then every last one of them bows their head.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), Trayvon Martin’s Killer
Related Symbols: Trayvon Martin
Page Number: 201
Explanation and Analysis:
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Trayvon Martin Symbol Timeline in When They Call You a Terrorist

The timeline below shows where the symbol Trayvon Martin appears in When They Call You a Terrorist. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Introduction: We Are Stardust
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Trayvon Martin’s killer, on the other hand, was not imprisoned. And when Patrisse and others started... (full context)
Chapter 11: Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
Patrisse hears about Trayvon Martin in 2012 while going through Facebook. The story is that a white man (how... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
External Forces vs. Personal Responsibility Theme Icon
On July 13, 2013—the day of Trayvon’s killer’s trial—Patrisse drives 11 hours with Mark Anthony and a few of their friends to... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
...sit with Richie in the prison visiting room and talk about what will happen to Trayvon’s killer. They talk optimistically about it—surely he will be punished. He willfully ignored a 911... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
...Till’s murder in 1955. She also thinks of Monte’s son Chase, who is 14 when Trayvon is killed—will he be killed with no accountability? When anyone in Van Nuys committed a... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
...pick up microwavable dinners. Back at the motel, Patrisse checks Facebook and sees updates come in—Trayvon’s killer is acquitted of all charges. She goes into shock and then denial before realizing... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
...no sense that Richie could be locked up for 10 years without hurting anyone, but Trayvon’s killer gets to go home. Just then, she sees that her friend Alicia (whom she... (full context)
Chapter 12: Raid
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
...been given a slap on the wrist or pointed toward therapy? Why aren’t people like Trayvon, Clifford Glover, or Rekia Boyd given a first chance or a second? Rekia was simply... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
...the door, and Patrisse answers to protect JT since he is dark-skinned and large. If Trayvon, Oscar Grant, and Ramarley Graham could be killed for no real reason, JT could be,... (full context)
Chapter 13: A Call, a Response
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Intersectionality of Identity Theme Icon
...will become the core of BLM-Los Angeles. Their list of demands includes federal charges against Trayvon’s killer, the release of a Black woman who was imprisoned for defending herself against an... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
...time for them to confront police violence. As helicopters hover, she asks them to remember Trayvon and all of the dead, to know that their lives “mattered then and they matter... (full context)
Chapter 14: #SayHerName
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
...Brown with love. Patrisse wonders, “Could it be that we matter?” They talk about how Trayvon was killed in a gated community, a place meant to separate people from one another,... (full context)