When They Call You a Terrorist

by

Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

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The war on drugs is an ongoing bipartisan effort by the U.S. government to reduce the use and sale of illegal drugs. Its initiatives included laws prohibiting drug possession and sale, harsh prison sentences for drug offenders, and military intervention to combat international drug trafficking. Though the term was coined in 1971 during Richard Nixon’s presidency, as Patrisse argues in When They Call you a Terrorist, the height of the war on drugs was during Ronald Regan and Bill Clinton’s presidencies in the 1980s and 90s.

War on Drugs Quotes in When They Call You a Terrorist

The When They Call You a Terrorist quotes below are all either spoken by War on Drugs or refer to War on Drugs. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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 1 Quotes

Whatever goes through their minds after being half stripped in public and having their childhoods flung to the ground and ground into the concrete, we will never speak of this incident or the ones that will follow as Van Nuys becomes ground zero in the war on drugs and the war on gangs, designations that add even more license to police already empowered to do whatever they want to us.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), Monte Cullors, Paul
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

For my brothers, and especially for Monte, learning that they did not matter, that they were expendable, began in the streets, began while they were hanging out with friends, began while they were literally breathing while Black […] For us, law enforcement had nothing to do with protecting and serving, but controlling and containing the movement of children who had been labeled super-predators simply by virtue of who they were born to and where they were born, not because they were actually doing anything predatory.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), Monte Cullors
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

In 1986 when I am three years old, Ronald Reagan reenergizes the drug war that was started in 1971 by Richard Nixon by further militarizing the police in our communities, which swells the number of Black and Latinx men who are incarcerated. Between 1982 and 2000, the number of people locked up in the state of California grows by 500 percent. And it will be nearly a quarter of a century before my home state is forced, under consent decree, to reduce the number of people it's locked up, signaling, we hope, the end of what will eventually be called the civil rights crisis of our time.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), Gabriel Brignac
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

The groups of kids they first called gangs were really young people who were friends, they were my friends, and they took a defensive posture against what looked and felt like an actual advancing army that came in on foot and came in police cars for which the county had appropriated ever more dollars to patrol us with. And worse than the cars, most frightening of all, were the helicopters overhead. At all hours of day and night they hovered above us, shone lights into the midnight, circling and surveilling, vultures looking for the best next prey.

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker)
Related Symbols: Helicopters
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

I have never seen him high before but I refuse to turn away. If he matters to me at all then he has to matter to me at every moment. He has to matter to me at this moment. Seeing him like this feels like my soul is being pulled over shards of glass but I do not turn away. His life is not expendable. Our love is not disposable. I will not be to him what the world has been to him. I will not throw him away.

Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

It would be easy to speculate about the impact of years of cocaine use on my father's heart, but I suspect that it will tell us less than if we could measure the cumulative effects of hatred, racism and indignity. What is the impact of years of strip searches, of being bent over, the years before that when you were a child and knew that no dream you had for yourself was taken seriously by anyone, that you were not someone who would be fully invested in by a nation that treated you as expendable?

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), Gabriel Brignac
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

Is this my mother who is gripped, albeit wrongly, with guilt? Is she in this moment wondering what she did or did not do to ensure her baby, her Monte, be kept safe from the nightmare he's been cast into? Is my mother the fallout, the collateral damage in the battle to elevate personal responsibility over everything, over all those decisions that were made about state budget priorities, about wages, about the presence of police, and even about damn grocery stores and access to quality food?

Related Characters: Patrisse Khan-Cullors (speaker), Cherice, Monte Cullors
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:
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War on Drugs Term Timeline in When They Call You a Terrorist

The timeline below shows where the term War on Drugs 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
...poverty and the police, like many others in the BLM movement. Growing up during the war on drugs , neighborhoods like hers were war zones. White people have always used and sold more... (full context)
Chapter 1: Community, Interrupted
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
External Forces vs. Personal Responsibility Theme Icon
...doing nothing wrong. Over the following months and years, police continue to brutalize them; the war on drugs is ramping up, and the police find more and more “ways to make us the... (full context)
Chapter 3: Bloodlines
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
External Forces vs. Personal Responsibility Theme Icon
...society more safe, why do I feel so much fear and hurt?” This is the war on drugs era—between 1982 and 2000, the California prison population grows by 500 percent, jails swelling with... (full context)
Chapter 4: Magnitude and Bond
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
This is the 1990s, the middle of the war on drugs and the war on gangs. Being Black or Mexican makes you a drug dealer or... (full context)
Chapter 9: No Ordinary Love
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
External Forces vs. Personal Responsibility Theme Icon
...fathers and Monte disappeared. She doesn’t yet understand how social forces (job loss and the war on drugs ) rather than personal failings led to both Alton and Gabriel’s struggles. (full context)
Chapter 16: When They Call You a Terrorist
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
...get jobs, move the tax revenue from legal marijuana sale to communities impacted by the war on drugs , and expunge records of marijuana convictions. Their months of canvassing have paid off—by 8... (full context)
Black Lives Matter Theme Icon
Prisons and Policing Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Healing Theme Icon
...is us.” She is part of a forgotten generation—people who are written off by the war on drugs and war on gangs, who have no access to good schools, and who are pushed... (full context)