Opinion | What if her name were “Buffy” Griner
Brittney Griner and her wife Cherelle are an American love story. Let us try a thought experiment. Instead of being a 6’9” basketball player and black lesbian, Brittney Griner is a five-foot-two (eyes of blue) white evangelical named Buffy with a business that refuses to serve the LBGTQ+ community. Further, imagine instead of being married to a striking black woman studying for a law degree, Buffy is married to an election-denying candidate for Senate. Griner was a basketball star at Baylor University, and Cherelle was an undergrad when they met. Their whirlwind romance culminated in marriage, a professional basketball career for Ms. Griner, and a law degree for Cherelle from North Carolina Central University this past Spring (cue the lights and music).
Imagine the heart-fluttering reception the right wing would have heaped upon a Republican President who brought home Buffy instead. Her flowing blonde locks unfurled in the tarmac breeze with her gun-toting husband meeting her in front of a bevy of American flags (cue the stars and stripes). The GOP is obliged to make statements that usually start and end with… although we are glad she is home, then opines how Griner is a celebrity drug dealer and beacon for the woke. Taking time to be happy that an American of color is back home—from a punitive Russian prison, does not feed the beast of homophobia, racism, and owning the libs. American justice has recognized that harsh prison sentences for possession of marijuana are broad, punitive, and make no sense. Yet the right wing was perfectly willing to see a thirty-two-year-old black woman waste away in a Russian prison for a tiny amount of cannabis oil.
As a part of her defense, Griner’s legal team presented documents stating that Ms. Griner was prescribed the substance for chronic pain due to her athletic career. Russian prosecutors admitted during her trial that she possessed less than a gram of the substance and had tested clean for drugs. One could further the analogy by saying that another long-held—black prisoner (“Jamal” Whelan), a former Marine with less than an honorable discharge, is still being held. The real Mr. Whelan [Paul] and Brittney Griner should only be seen as Americans who deserve support and every effort by America to be home.
Three things can be true at once, mistakes, punishment, and redemption. Having Brittney Griner return like the unfortunate Otto Warmbier is not the answer. Fortunately, President Biden remembered—when he signed off on the deal to trade Griner for Victor Bout. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was exchanged for five Guantanamo Bay detainees in 2014 because former President Obama lived by the military credo of leaving no man behind. Bergdahl was arrested and faced military justice on his return to the U.S. Convicted of desertion and misbehavior, Bergdahl was also demoted and fined. During the Trump administration, 5,000 Taliban fighters were exchanged—for ostensibly Afghan government captives, as part of an Islamist militant and U.S. peace deal. In GOP politics, irony is something women do to their husband’s white shirts
Like a lot of things uniquely American, race, gender, discrimination, and hate undergird not only politics but decency.
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