Does Anybody Care About Brittney Griner Or Black Women?

Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner is in terrible conditions in a Russian prison. Have we stopped caring about her and other Black women?

Basketball star Brittney Griner was like a fast and furious fad.

She was in all the news and social media: “FREE BRITTNEY GRINER!” They yelled it and screamed it as if Putin and all of Russia could hear them. Suddenly, and I do mean faster than the Flash, she’s out of the headlines and social media, too. Perhaps people realized this is out of their hands. Some say things such as, “Why did she have weed in Russia in the first place?” Most of it is ridiculous.

Now, she lives in deplorable conditions most of us could not fathom. She is in a Russian prison, a far cry from prisons in the states. Reports say she is subjected to blatant homophobia and racism while working painstakingly long 16-hour days. She is not even treated like a human as a prisoner in Mordovia, per Dave Zirin, which is sad. What is sadder is that nobody seems to care anymore.

The incarcerated get little to no medical care, there’s bigotry and homophobia left unchecked, and they work on behalf of the prison guards and police officers. Griner is 6′ 8″ and likely does not have a bed to fit her. According to her people, Griner is doing her best to stay positive, but some feel she won’t last in this hellish existence. She is only two months into a nine-year sentence.

Musician Nadya Tolokonnikova, known as the lead of the rebellious feminist group P#### Riot, was incarcerated for two years in Mordovia – nearly 10 years ago to the date of Griner’s jailing. And she said it was hell where the prisoners were subjected to violence. “Despite the fact [Griner] is alone and now nearing her ninth month in detention separated from her loved ones,” one of her representative said, “she is trying to stay strong.”

If she is trying to stay strong, why aren’t we?

This is a Black woman – a basketball star – that is a profit center for the WNBA and others, but we have quickly forgotten about her. It is not right, straight up. It is also indicative of how we treat Black women overall and how little we value them. There are close to 100,000 Black women missing in America, a 2021 stat so it is likely more now. There is no outrage for these missing humans, but if they were white, there would be a continual stream of media swarming the matter.

But, it is mostly mute crickets.

In fact, we spend a disproportionate amount of time on Kanye West, Cardi B, Kyrie and random foolishness online in general. We know for a fact that the social media machine, primarily TikTok, is built to promote foolishness and mindless entertainment. And, at the same time, Black women are missing. And, at the same time, Black people are still dying in the streets in a myriad of ways. Simultaneously, the true dangers we face are not being addressed in any meaningful way by mainstream media.

Griner was accused of bringing a minuscule amount of hashish oil in her luggage into a Moscow airport. She was subsequently sentenced to nine years in prison and her appeal was denied in October. I had a very direct conversation with celebrated photographer Brother Ernie Paniccioli. The 75-year old legend was distressed. He questioned Hip-Hop’s lack of concern for Griner. He questioned the lack of concern for just about anything. He questioned how we got here after being principled and founded in positivity (“Peace, Unity, Love and Having Fun”).

U.S. officials continue to negotiate to get Griner out, but the prisoner swap has not been accepted. What Brother Ernie could not accept in our conversation is that Hip-Hop no longer cares. Although it is not a monolithic movement, once upon a time, the rappers led the charge politically and people followed. They still bend the public’s ear when ever they say something remotely politically charged no matter how unintelligent they may sound or misinformed. Some less notable artists have gotten traction on social media but rarely get on MSNBC or CNN.

Officially a political prisoner, it looks like freedom or some tragic occurrence is the only pathway to get Brittney Griner back in the headlines and consciousness of the general public.

The good news is there seems to be some hope that she still can be swapped for another prisoner. The bad news is that won’t change our priorities.