When They Call You a Terrorist (Young Adult Edition) | Patrisse Khan-Cullors

Summary of: When They Call You a Terrorist (Young Adult Edition): A Story of Black Lives Matter and the Power to Change the World
By: Patrisse Khan-Cullors


Embark on a compelling journey through a deeply personal account of poverty, racial discrimination, and activism in ‘When They Call You a Terrorist (Young Adult Edition): A Story of Black Lives Matter and the Power to Change the World’ by Patrisse Khan-Cullors. This book summary takes readers through the author’s childhood experiences in impoverished Los Angeles, the obstacles faced by African American children in the education system, and the impact of societal issues on families and drug addiction. Furthermore, the summary sheds light on America’s incarceration system and the powerful moments that led to the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Childhood in Poverty and Policing

Growing up in 1990s Los Angeles, the author experienced poverty and constant police harassment in her black neighborhood. Her single mother worked multiple jobs but struggled to provide healthy meals, and her brothers were frequently arrested without cause.

Inequality in the American Education System

African American children face harsh punishment and discrimination in the US education system, according to the author’s experiences. Black schools are often underfunded and filled with police presence, while white schools go untouched despite similar offenses. The author highlights the systemic racism and lack of opportunities for Black youth.

The Flip Side of the American Dream

The American Dream promises prosperity for hardworking individuals, but what happens to those who cannot achieve it? In “When They Call You a Terrorist,” Patrisse Khan-Cullors argues that society is often to blame. Through her personal experiences, she highlights how economic and societal forces contribute to poverty and addiction, and how these issues disproportionately affect Black families. Khan-Cullors challenges the common belief that those living in poverty are failures who deserve their circumstances, and instead asks why society doesn’t take more responsibility for creating equitable opportunities for all. She argues that external factors, such as the lack of resources for youth development, contribute to an individual’s susceptibility to substance addiction, and society should work to address these issues, rather than solely blaming those affected.

America’s Love Affair with Incarceration

A poignant account of the United States’ incarceration system, where author’s experiences of having a father and brother in prison highlight the flaws of the justice system and how it incarcerates more mentally ill individuals than psychiatric institutions. The book exposes America’s love affair with imprisonment and offers ways to combat this issue.

In “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir,” author Patrisse Khan-Cullors examines America’s incarceration system. She sheds light on the country’s love affair with incarceration by painting a poignant account of her own experiences. Although America has only 5% of the world’s population, it accounts for a staggering 25% of the world’s prison population. The author’s story reveals how the justice system tends to lock up those struggling with mental illness instead of treating them, as more mentally ill people end up in prisons rather than psychiatric institutions in the United States.

The author’s father, Gabriel, a drug addict, was not treated but locked up instead of overcoming his addiction. Furthermore, Gabriel’s only way out of imprisonment was to be a first responder to dangerous wildfires to reduce his sentence. On the other hand, her brother Monte, with schizoaffective disorder, was imprisoned for attempted robbery, despite his deteriorating mental health, which the prison exacerbated. Moreover, he endured solitary confinement, causing his mental health condition to worsen, and was denied medication by his jailers.

In conclusion, the author believes that imprisoning people with mental illnesses perpetuates the state’s willingness to lock up and neglect mentally ill individuals; instead, they warrant treatment. The book proposes ways to combat this issue. In essence, “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir” not only exposes America’s staggering prison population but also sheds light on the flaws of the justice system, and its impact on those affected by it.

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