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3 Life Changing Lessons from Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner has been inspiring the world by being true to herself

Picture of Brittney Griner looking up towards the right
Pictured Brittney Griner | Photo by Danielle Levitt

"When you're confident, you're going to do things a little differently. You're not going to be hesitant to take a shot, you're not going to be hesitant to make a certain move.." — Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner has been released from prison in Russia and many around the world are elated - just pure honoring her return.

They have expressed thanks to God she's home and safe, wondered about the prioritization of her emotional wellness, declaring its about time, and no matter who they swapped her for, it wasn't going to seem fair because of her crime..

Alternately, there are just as many who are disappointed and frustrated that she was exchanged over other prisoners. They suggested it's not a "fair" trade due to geopolitics, her mouth got her in trouble, she shouldn't have broken the law, and more. One person even suggested Griner identifying as a lesbian was enough cause to keep her in prison.

According to the Wall Street Journal who offered a timeline of Griner's detainment and release, she was convicted of "smuggling" 0.7 grams of hashish oil into Russia while on a basketball trip for a Russian team. She was sentenced to 9 years in prison and fined 1,000,000 rubles ($15,996.17 USD as of today). At the time of her release, she served 10 months.

Many expressed outrage in comparison to Audrey Lorber. CBS news reported Lorber was a 19 year-old American convicted in Russia for "attempting to import" 19 grams of marijuana while on vacation with her family in 2019. She was fined 15,000 rubles ($235 USD as of today), credited for time served and released after a two months detention stay. Lorber was allowed to travel independently back to the US.

This is a vital comparison and speaks to a deeper issue of how Black people are portrayed in the media and the efforts taken to search for them when they have gone missing.

In less than 72 hours after getting release, memes started circulating showing individuals with male features walking suggesting Griner has become more male-like since her incarceration. Why is this funny?

From my perspective, there is nothing funny about the memes and speaks volumes about how these individuals and groups view Griner's traumatic experience.

It is impossible to truly see, support and attempt to keep Black women psychologically safe if you are mocking our painful experiences.

This can include not speaking up for us when it’s deserved or even sharing a meme adding to society’s attempts to make us a mockery. It’s low. It’s defining.

For Black people joining in the wave of memes, it’s your truth masked by suggestions that you care because you are married to a Black women, have Black sisters, have Black daughters, etc.

What's been most interesting to witness is the number of Black women expressing their disagreement and preference for her to stay in Russia. I'm sure this isn't because they are trained in negotiations, believe the time fit the crime, or have an in-depth understanding of the situation.

This is a reminder that anti-Blackness doesn't just come from non-Black people. It's quite concerning when the the direction of this level of anti-Blackness is unfounded and likely rooted in their own traumas.

This is called projection - a defense mechanism. Defense mechanisms are psychological strategies that we unconsciously use to cope and protect ourselves from difficult thoughts, feelings or events.

Think of projecting as "splitting-off" which requires disassociation (detach) or denial (declare something is untrue). Internally, a person is playing out the dilemma: "That doesn't apply to me, I'm not like them.... or it's no big deal, everyone's doing it."

Just like the exchange of Griner, this dilemma turns from it being about oneself and feelings or the facts to what everyone else is doing and lacks emotional intelligence also known as EQ.

I'm sure you've witnessed this in many spaces where you don't feel like you belong or your well-being is threatened.

In short, emotional intelligence is your ability to identify and manage your own emotions as well as identify and adapt to other people's emotions. It's essentially about emotional sensitivity to the world around us which is discussed further in one of my former blog articles exploring self-advocacy strategies using emotional intelligence.

When it comes to EQ, social skills include social decision making and in the meme instance, it was not present. Projecting positions us to treat other people with how we feel about that quality or circumstance showing up in ourselves. This happens consciously or unconsciously and is not excusable especially once you are made aware of it's impact.

In an attempt to have civil conversation and advocate for Griner on the socials, I was met with language such as it's just a meme, I don't this consistently, it ain't that serious, and more. While protecting my peace and desire for high-vibration conversations that promotes growth and healing, I disengaged.

Through all of this, I'm reminded by a quote from Griner:

"Don't worry about what other people are going to say, because they're always going to say something, but, if you're just true to yourself, let that shine through." - Brittney Griner

Griner will have a tremendous recovery journey as she's been physically released, but mentally it will likely take an unknown amount of time.

Allow her story to serve a reminder to be slow to judge and project. Here are 3 life changing lessons from Brittney Griner:

1. Play to Win

Griner: "I'm a competitor, you know. I don't want to play just to play. I want to play to win and I want to win it all."

In reality, I can imagine her time in prison this was hard fought and her release was hard won. With all the judgements and criticisms, many are mentally in competition with Griner because no one saw, supported or kept them safe perhaps at many points of their lives. Also, let's be clear, she didn't co-sign to the rules of your judgmental and critical game.

2. Figure Out Where I Fit

Griner: "It's taken me a long time to figure out exactly where I fit. During that journey, I realized that everyone has a unique place in this world."

As we listen, read and watch the aftermath of Griner's release, you have a choice in what comes out of your mouth or the click of a button. Truthfully, no one wants to hear your Google intellect and attempts to convince others that you're not anti-Black or LBGTQIA + or believe in fairness.

3. We Can All Learn From One Another

Griner: "I think that's what makes life beautiful: everyone is different and we can all learn from one another."

In order to learn from one another, we are tasked with having civil conversations and interactions to evolve as a culture where people can feel like they belong and their well-being is considered. Sure, this seems like a wish or dream, but it takes action to make wishes and dreams come true for the greater good.

I am honoring Brittney Griner's release and anticipated healing after a traumatic experience. If you or some one you know needs mental health support, please dial 988 which is the National Crisis Line 24/7/365 or reach out to a local mental health professional.


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