Picture of Ed Reed and group of police officers charged with murder of Tyre Nichols
Anti-Black racism has defined American (U.S.) society. Anti-Blackness is a result of white supremacy. White supremacy is the belief in the superiority of those identified as white people. Whiteness becomes the standard that is celebrated and violently protected. Blackness is the opposite of this. Therefore, Black people are considered inferior, abnormal, derided, and viewed as a threat to whiteness. That's where the violence comes in to protect whiteness. Anti-Blackness becomes an antagonistic posture towards Black people, culture, spaces, institutions, values, etc. It is a resistance to anything considered "Black" or "non-white."
I began this post with these definitions because I want to make it abundantly clear that anybody, regardless of race or ethnicity, can internalize, speak words, and take actions that are anti-Black. Unfortunately, in the past several weeks there have been two glaring examples of what I mean. These two examples are very different and should not be considered, by any means, one in the same. The first example is the Instagram Live tirade by Pro Football Hall of Fame Safety Ed Reed. The second is the three minute vicious beating of Tyre Nichols by five Black police officers in Memphis, Tennessee. It must also be mentioned that with the release of video footage, there was another officer involved who is white.
Picture of Tyre Nichols
Ed Reed had agreed in principle to become the head football coach at Bethune Cookman University, a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) in Daytona Beach, Florida. Without a binding written contract already in place, Reed went on IG live putting the school's administration on blast, so to speak. What appears to have prompted this action was the fact that the school had not cleaned out his office upon him getting there. In the live he talked about that, the campus being dirty, alluded to corruption, and referred to BCU and HBCU's as having "broken mentalities." To be fair, the school has its issues. Many of the issues it faces, however, are due to systemic underfunding as well as the unfortunate reality of going through several natural disasters. But, generalizing all HBCU's is the stuff of ignorance.
Now as most of us "regular people" can imagine, if you go on any public platform like social media talking crazy about your bosses, it's no point in you going into the office in the morning. There is no way that you are going to have a job unless you work for your parents or have some really incriminating evidence on your boss. Remember, I said Reed didn't have a legally binding contract signed, so it was no surprise when BCU put an end to that whole situation. They took back their offer, deciding to move on. After this decision, Reed went live again (somebody get this man's phone!). He was so upset that Deion Sanders, who recently left Jackson State University, where he was given the opportunity after not going through the traditional college coaching ranks, to coach at Colorado University.
Many things bothered me about what Reed did on both the lives he streamed, but the thing that stood out the most is his arrogance. Maybe that shouldn't have shocked me with a player that reached his level of success. You almost need that. But it was the arrogance that he believed he could do what he did and get away with it. The only explanation for why he thought that is rooted in anti-Blackness. He trashed a Black institution that has provided higher education for Black and underserved communities for over 100 years, especially when those same communities would not have been admitted entry into Reed's own Alma Mater, the University of Miami.
The simple truth is he would never have done this at Miami or any other traditionally white institution (TWI). And even if he did, he wouldn't expect that there would be no consequences. He thought he could get away with trashing BCU and its administration because he made up in his mind that they needed him. They needed what he has - celebrity, resources, and potential connections. The reality is that it would have been beneficial for both parties in the same way it was for Deion Sanders. Reed would have gotten the opportunity to be the head coach of a division-1 college football program, which is something that he wasn't even on track for being a consultant with the football program at his Alma Mater. Bethune would have received an increased profile and hopefully donors and networks. But, he viewed them with contempt. He was resistant to what he viewed as inferior and ultimately that led to his antagonism towards them and HBCU's in general.
This is anti-Blackness that is so deeply internalized and normalized that we barely recognize it. Blackness is over-criticized, while whiteness is under-criticized or above reproach. But what went on with Ed Reed doesn't reach the magnitude of the Memphis police officers' attack on Tyre Nichols that resulted in his death. I have intentionally chosen not to the name the six officers (5 Black, 1 white) because I want to continue to lift up and honor Tyre Nichols' name and memory. Nevertheless, these officers displayed anti-Blackness that was deadly.
Tyre Nichols was pulled over by the officers for "reckless driving." Soon after they began to beat him. This violent assault went on for three minutes and involved strike after strike, blow after blow, and multiple tasers. They showed a complete disregard for the humanity of this young man, who was a father, creative, and skateboarder. They didn't see him as a human being created equal to them. They saw a Black man even though they are Black. They saw Blackness. In this country Black people have gone from being considered not fully human to inherently criminal, as well as all sorts of stuff in between. That narrative is imbedded in policing and the courts.
They too probably believed that they could get away with it. After all, how many times have we seen white police officers kill innocent Black Women, children, and men and either never get indicted or never convicted. And rarely do they lose their jobs. The five Black officers were almost immediately fired and indicted on several charges including second-degree murder. The one white officer was only "relieved of duty" after the video was released, and has not yet been formerly charged. It's a twisted irony. The Black officers internalized the white supremacy inherent in the culture of policing. They showed the anti-Blackness they subscribed to by beating the life out of Tyre Nichols. But, they are still Black themselves. They were fired and indicted on several charges in record time. Over and over we have watched as a nation as white police officers acting the same way these five officers acted are never charged, undercharged, or not convicted. While they were agents for anti-Blackness, they became its victims as well.
Whether it's through belittlement like Ed Reed or outright violence and murder like the five Black police officers in Memphis, Black people have the ability to be anti-Black. It doesn't look like white (or other races/ethnicities) anti-Blackness but the consequences and devastating effects are the same - pain, diminishment, systemic inequality, death, and more.