We are all Pawns in Their Game

As soon as Brittney Griner was arrested, she was guaranteed to be convicted and given a long sentence. She may even have been arrested so she could be convicted and sentenced. Yes, she broke an absurdly stupid Russian law around the possession of cannabis, but I’m guessing others have broken the same law and avoided prosecution. We know the laws around the possession of cannabis and other outlawed drugs are prosecuted and sentenced differently in America depending on your race and status.

But Griner was caught with a small, technical violation at a time Russia needs any leverage with America it can find. So, she was given a nine-year sentence. Now, the governments, neither of which cares about any of those involved, can begin negotiations over prisoner swaps.

Brittney Griner had the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time when Putin needed a pawn. Her life will never be the same because foreign policy concerns related to the power of the wealthy always matter more to their purchased politicians and government officials than do the life of any person or the lives of millions of people.

In Washington, the Biden Administration is now deciding which of its pawns it will be willing to offer for Griner’s release. Eventually, the sides may come to a deal. Some pawns may obtain a bit of freedom. Other pawns, either too valuable or not valuable enough for this negotiation, will remain in prison.

On a larger scale, recent events in Taiwan demonstrate how the people of Taiwan are pawns for the governments of America and China. The media tells us all the time what the people of Taiwan want without ever really asking the regular citizens of Taiwan. The media portrays China as wanting to control Taiwan, as if America doesn’t want the same thing. But we hear little about life in Taiwan or what Taiwanese think of their situation. We don’t hear from citizens of Taiwan, because they are pawns. Their desires don’t matter to China or Washington.

It sucks to know you are a pawn in their sick power grab, but that is the truth. Time and again, we have seen that our lives don’t matter until there is a reason why our lives need to matter to them.

Politicians who have repeatedly passed bills, supported corrupt policing and prosecution, and use dogwhistles to make white people feel like people of color are creating a drug-fueled crime wave, are now pretending they are terribly concerned about Brittney Griner. But if you create and forcibly maintain a racist system that sends people of color to prison for decades because they possessed some drugs and now you care about Brittney Griner’s sentence, you are showing everyone you are a hypocrite. If it’s wrong for Brittney Griner to be in prison, which it is, it’s just as wrong for the thousands of people in American prisons for drug possession too. But since we are all pawns, the American pawns don’t get the support Griner is getting.

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