Our bad. Shame on us for failing black women who try to smuggle drugs onto planes. Through our bigotry, we have really let down Brittney Griner, the black lesbian basketball star serving a nine-year prison sentence in Russia for drug smuggling.
Our accuser is Yahoo writer Sughnen Yongo-Okochi, an immigrant from Nigeria, who says the narrative on Griner needs to change. She assailed the people who say Griner should not have broken the rules in Russia, for they are “overly righteous and puritan when a black person gets into the slightest trouble.”
Griner apologized to a Russian judge, but the people criticizing her on social media are making critical statements that “are shrouded in hidden internalized bigotry.” (Can a statement be "shrouded in hidden internalized bigotry?" Shrouds are coverings, and things that are hidden and internalized seem like they'd make very poor shrouds. Or is to point that out failing Yongo-Okochi in the same way we've failed Griner?)
Memes directed at Griner, the 6-foot-9-inch center of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, are not funny either, Yongo-Okochi fumes. The people behind these light-hearted memes have supposedly created a “comedic fiasco sandwiched in politics” -- just to gain a few hundred likes. The Yahoo writer adds that doing so “misses the mark and pushes us further away from our humanity.
The harsh reality is that Griner has been detained for months, and has allegedly been treated poorly, not by Russian detainers, but by Americans. Instead of investing in wisecracks, showing genuine support is what is needed now.
Yet the empathy for Griner has been underwhelming, writes her defender. It’s deeply insensitive for people to counter that LeBron James would not have put himself in the situation (she tried to carry vape cartridges containing cannabis onto a plane in Moscow and got busted.)
Yongo Okochi says this argument “blatantly dismisses the fact that Griner made a mistake, has owned up to it and is fighting hard for her freedom. Even though the internet has been awash with think pieces, the overall response to Griner’s imprisonment, which many have collectively called ‘unfair’ and ‘extreme,’ has been grossly underwhelming.”
Griner’s story demonstrates that we need to do a better job of protecting black women. Who knew that she needed us to protect her by yelling “no!” before she tried to board that Russian jetliner?
It’s not just the American people that let Griner down. The truth, Yongo-Okochi reveals, is that systems also fail black women. They aren’t always a priority of society, and this makes it even more painful to follow the Griner story. Black women are often “the most ignored, disrespected and ignored in society, and Griner’s story has repeatedly highlighted this theme,” the writer concludes.
Yeah, Griner is so under-valued by American society that our government, it’s been reported, is willing to swap Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States. That’s right: an arms trafficker for a basketball player. This possibility shoots huge holes in Yongo-Okochi's sensationalized indictment of U.S. citizens who bear no blame for Griner’s predicament.