ACAB: Why We Say It

Photo by Piper Lilley

The Black Lives Matter movement was sparked in February 2012 by the tragic murder of Travon Martin. Though it was not as popular then as it is now, the movement was still very prominent. The movement spiked again in 2016 when Donald J. Trump became president. Finally, this summer the movement was revamped due to the unfortunate murder of George Floyd. His killing gave the movement so much publicity that some call it the second Civil Rights movement.

During this movement, lots of phrases have been made more common to combat racial inequality but more specifically racially targeted police brutality. The one phrase that has gained a lot of attention and pushback is ACAB or the numeric version 1312. ACAB stands for All Cops Are Bastards.

This phrase has received a lot of backlash, with many people questioning why it’s said. Most commonly people say, “I know someone who is a cop and they're a good person.”, “What if there is a cop that supports Black Lives Matter?”, “It’s not all cops. It’s just a few bad ones.” or “They’re just doing their job,” which are valid points. However, the phrase is very misunderstood. Just like people need to understand that just because we say Black Lives Matter does not mean that other lives do not, people need to understand that ACAB is a holistic view of the policing system and does not target every individual officer.

The United States was not fully equipped with a policing system until 1880, fifteen years after the emancipation proclamation was signed to free slaves in the country. Though some say that this has no correlation, the police force was called “Slave Patrol” in the south until the early 1980s. This means that the police system was created to patrol, incarcerate, and kill black and brown people. Although that time has passed, this idea behind the police system has not changed. People often say that the job of an officer is to protect and serve, but given the brutal killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony Mcdade, Tanisha Anderson, Elijah McClain, Michael Brown, Travon Martain, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Daniel Prude and Philando Castille, they are not doing their jobs, making them a bad cops.

Now, at this point, some people would say, “Well not all cops are bastards.” Once again, fair point--but you must break down the word bastard to have a full understanding. The biblical definition is “a child born of two people that are not married,” which in this case saying that not all officers are bastards would be true. However, there are two definitions. Bastardized: a system that was in place but is now set to fail. Or in other words, corrupt. Given that the police system was put in place just to patrol black and brown people, that makes it a corrupt system or a bastardized system.

In short, the reason people say ACAB is because once a police officer puts on their badge, they become compliant to a system that belittles people of color when their job is to protect and serve. ACAB is a holistic view of the police system and not nitpicking at every individual officer. Black people are disproportionately killed by police and it is a severe problem that is due to generational and systemic racism.

We say ACAB for those that we have lost due to said racism. For Breonna while she was sleeping, for George and Eric because they couldn’t breathe, for Ahmaud because he couldn’t finish his jog, for Tony because he was black and openly trans, for Tenisha and Daniel because they had untreated mental health issues, for Elijah because he was walking home, for Michael because he was walking down the street with a friend, for Travon because he wanted a bag of skittles and iced tea, for Tamir because he was playing with a toy gun, and for Sandra and Philando because of a traffic ticket. Not to mention countless more. We say ACAB because the system failed them, and we will not stop until they get justice.

No Justice, No Peace

By Jeanni Floyd

Photo by Piper Lilley


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