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Psalms for Black Girls, Griner

Source: iOne Creative / iOne

 

Britney Griner, the star WNBA player sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony for showing up to play basketball in the embattled country with a miniscule amount of medical cannabis in her vape pen, is finally free. This after Griner spent just shy of 300 harrowing days behind bars in Russia—hater of America, at war with U.S. defense partner, Ukraine, patently anti-gay, not so fond of women’s equality, and outright hostile to Black folk.
That BG, a 6-foot-9, Black, female lesbian athlete-turned political pawn made it out of that Russian prison alive and in one piece is nothing short of a miracle—one orchestrated by the Biden Administration, with the help of a Saudi Crown prince and in exchange for a Russian arms dealer imprisoned here in the U.S. BG’s wife, Cherelle Griner, her teammates and colleagues in the WNBA, and Black women everywhere are celebrating the fact that, after all the lobbying, all the crying, all the uncertainty, all the jockeying, all the prayers, Griner will be home for Christmas.

Waking up to the news of her coming home should have been glorious, full stop. But whoa boy did the media show its behind in its coverage of Griner’s release. At every turn, Griner’s story was hitched to that of Paul Wheelan, the American marine who was sentenced to 16 years in prison after Russia found him guilty of espionage, and Mark Fogel, an American sentenced to 14 years in prison earlier this year after being found guilty of sliding into Moscow with 17 grams of weed. Reporters grilled White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about why Brittney came home, and the others did not, and whether her release was commiserate with the exchange for Russian arms dealer “Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout; their questions and the commentary of talking heads on cable news smacked of, “Why’d Biden bring the Black lady home and leave the white men behind?” One reporter actually asked, “In this prisoner swap, why did Russia get such a better deal?”
A better deal.

In typical form, Jean-Pierre handled the questions with grace: “This was not a choice for us on of which American to bring home. That was not the choice. It was a choice between bring home one American or bring home none. And we brought one home today…” she said, adding that the administration did the same for Marine Trevor Reed, who’d spent three years in prison on charges that he was a spy. She referred questions about Fogel to the State Department and reiterated that the Russians were treated Wheelan’s imprisonment as separate, distinct and more serious than Griner’s drug charges.
From the tenor of the questioning and commentary, one surmises that they thought this Black woman wasn’t of high enough value to justify her release, which is the crime and the shame and falls directly in line with how this country tends to hang price tags on Black women’s bodies. We’re good enough to raise their kids, clean their houses, toil in their kitchens and low-wage jobs, save Democracy again and again by taking the lead in voting into office Democrats embroiled in tough races against conservatives hellbent on running the country into the ground, but most certainly not “high value” enough to rescue—from policies that systemically affect everything from the way we give birth to where we live to how much we’re paid compared to men and white women.
Hell, the only reason BG, one of the WNBA’s brightest stars, was in Russia in the first place was because the WNBA is still capping its players salaries at $228,094—basically pennies on the dollar compared to the minimum contracts handed out to the least-paid bench riders of the NBA, which stretch between $925,258 and $2.6M per year. Griner was in Russia moonlighting on its women’s basketball team to make the kind of cash she can’t get here at home for the same job.
And yet, here is American mainstream media, suggesting by their questioning that really, BG—and Black women—are worthy only of being left to rot. The others, the white men, they are “the better deal.” Conservative politicians agree. And so, too, do some Black men, apparently, as evidenced by Dallas Cowboys star linebacker Micah Parsons, who went off on Twitter, writing “Wait nah!! We left a marine?!! Hell nah,” and quickly added that he wasn’t about to vote for Biden in 2024.
Parsons later apologized for “tweeting out of emotion” before understanding the facts of what went down to bring a fellow athlete home, but his damage—like that of conservative politicians, racist Twitter, and mainstream media—was done.
We see ya’ll with clear eyes. Always have.
And so if none of them will say it, we will: thank God Britney Griner is back on American soil, heading to the arms of her wife and children, far away from the dungeon others would have had her rot in had the Biden Administration, with its Black woman vice president and its Black woman press secretary, and its seat in the White House, procured by the hard work and the rock solid voting bloc of Black women, not done its damnedest to recognize Griner’s value and do what it took to bring her home.
Welcome back, BG.
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