why tf did tweeting “#blacklivesmatter” get this cop in trouble?

March 31, 2017

Officer Gwendolyn Bishop, a Brooklyn cop who is Black, was recently hit with departmental charges for “inappropriately” writing on the 76th Precinct Twitter page when she replied to a post about a gun arrest in her precinct by an NYPD Special Ops team. The issue? Her reply included the hashtag “Blacklivesmatter.”

According to the NY Daily News, Bishop wrote, “Sad day for the 76th Pct. #Blacklivesmatter,” using her personal twitter handle @ducklipzanddimplzz. While the initial tweet is still up, the replies, and Bishop’s Twitter account, have been taken down.

Bishop claimed at her departmental trial that she meant to write #Bluelivesmatter, but auto-correct got in the way. She and her lawyer further argued that because she used her personal account, her reply wasn’t in violation of any of the department’s social media rules, anyway.

It’s telling that we are now at a point where even just stating that Black people and their lives matter is unacceptable to the police. In an ideal world, that our lives matter would go without saying, but many are beginning to understand that this isn’t that world at all. As I wrote previously, “anti-Blackness is a centuries old practice that has always been meant to keep in place a system in which Black people aren’t seen as human so that others can attain their humanity,” and the police are the primary enforcers of this practice.

A tweet is just a small part of the issue. As countless former Black officers have already outlined, there is systematic anti-Blackness deeply entrenched throughout police departments across the country, ensuring that Black people not only do not get a fair shot in the criminal justice system, but are constantly targeted and criminalized. This is why the chorus arguing for the complete restructuring or abolition of the police, rather than reformation, continues to grow. Increasingly, these calls seem less like the outlandish visions of unrealistic radicals, and more like the only way to ensure that those responsible for keeping people safe are required to have a firm understanding of the importance of Black life, what to speak of freedom from being reprimanded for understanding it.

*Hari Ziyad is a New York based storyteller and writer for AFROPUNK. They are also the editor-in-chief of RaceBaitR, deputy editor of Black Youth Project, and assistant editor of Vinyl Poetry & Prose. You can follow them on Twitter @hariziyad.