When unspeakable tragedies occur, people often call for unity. They’ll say, “We are Boston Strong” or “Je suis Charlie” or “We are [insert wherever or whomever the unthinkable has happened to].” It’s a laudable instinct to claim solidarity with those who have suffered, to imagine we truly understand the ways we are all connected, to proclaim that what affects one of us affects all of us.
With the W.N.B.A. star Brittney Griner wrongfully detained in Russia for more than four months because a small amount of hashish oil was allegedly found in her luggage, I’m wondering why we haven’t seen more of a groundswell of demands for her release. In the attention economy, Ms. Griner’s predicament seems as if it’s being somewhat ignored.
The media is, at least, covering the story, and some rights groups and athletes have spoken up, but that isn’t enough. More public pressure for action is necessary. “We are B.G.” should be a viral rallying cry, but it isn’t — and why? Is it misogyny? Racism? Homophobia? The unholy trifecta?
Ms. Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges, but explained she did not intentionally break Russian law. Now she faces up to 10 years in a penal colony. She is trapped and alone, her plight unimaginable. There are, in fact, reportedly more than 60 Americans who are wrongfully detained abroad, all wondering when or if they will be saved. They have families who are working tirelessly for their return. They all deserve our compassion and attention.
Ms. Griner is receiving more attention than most, but that’s not saying much. I suppose I have a particular empathy for her because as a tall, tattooed, Black, queer woman, I understand that we are often invisible and overlooked despite standing out.
Each time Ms. Griner is transported to court, a two-and a-half-hour journey each way, she is put in a cage too small to accommodate her large frame, according to Ms. Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner. She communicates with her family through letters. In the few images of Ms. Griner released since her detention, she looks ashen.
No one should be treated this way, famous or not. But Ms. Griner is famous, a highly decorated basketball player —