An Open Letter to My Dear Sister Brittney Griner
In this time of injustice, let there be rage!
Dear Family, please forgive me sending two newsletters on the same day, but the first was sent before the news of Brittney Griner’s conviction and I felt compelled to show support, to share my anger and grieving. And my hope. “An Open Letter to My Dear Sister Brittney Griner” is also available on the Son of Baldwin website. Thank you.
Dear Sister Brittney,
Had you been properly valued in your own country, it would have been unnecessary for you to travel to another. But here, in the land of the “morally superior” but severely degenerate, to be all Black, woman, lesbian is to be thrown a spite that you never asked to receive. For them, it is like: How dare you not be delicate, docile, diminutive, domesticated, dainty, demure; not wait for some man to throw down his coat over a puddle so that you might giggle as you stepped on it, careful not to get your feet wet. They cannot feature you, Sis. Or how you can defy gravity and so there is no need for some white knight to guide you pass waters that you could leap over in your fucking sleep.
Because you are above them, you had to leave the place that we begrudgingly call “home” for the possibility of being appropriately compensated for your enormous gifts. Somehow, the “W” in front of “NBA” leads to a math that is only ever a means of subtraction. No matter how elegant or nimble the performance, because of the body you inhabit, a diminished people are sadly going to diminish you. And because you could not—and should not—bear that, you had to go.
Americans are a strange construct, Sister. They draw very strict and barbed lines for gender, gender identity, gender performance, and sexuality. In order for capitalism to function at peak ability, and for the robber barons to extract as much profit as they possibly can from our labor, human beings must be limited to the harshest and most restraining definitions of “woman” and “man,” the compulsory union of whom is designed to produce drones and soldiers, whose sole purpose is to toil, maim, kill, and plunder on behalf of the empires of no clothes. And since we, some of us, defy those tightly patrolled boundaries, we are deemed, in the main, beneath consideration.
Yes. You had to go.
But where can a Black person venture in this life and not be in danger? Well-versed in anti-Blackness, the world speaks of us with hostile tongues; curses to singe our faces or tatter our backs. And even in this knowing, their audacity never shrinks. You often hear them, certain non-American people, irrespective of the alabaster of their skin, say that they aren’t white. Yet, when all is said and done, when it is all left on the floor, they greet us with the same contempt as those who are honest enough to claim their barbarism, revealing that ethnicity, hue, location, language, philosophy, politic, position, and religion are beside the point. Anti-Blackness is the true arbiter of allegiance.
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The American government hopes to, without a sense of athletic irony, trade you—a game no less wild than how they traded our Ancestors: sometimes for tools, sometimes for animals, sometimes for money, sometimes for land, sometimes for another. It hopes to convince a nation, just as ruthless and confused by human decency as itself, to release you in exchange for someone who deals in death as regularly as you score on the court.
And let us remember how you maneuver on that court: with flight and grace. We be in awe! Screaming and yasssing all over the place and shit. But also know this: that is not where your value lies. You are meaningful to us because you are here, because you exist, because you are real, because we share this moment with you, because you are the you that you are, and because our Ancestors scraped, sacrificed, and survived so that we, you and us, may be.
Perhaps had you been white, had you been male, had you been heterosexual, this letter might have served no point. You might have already been released by now. Or maybe not. Wars between overlords are as unpredictable as they are unnecessary; haphazard as they are ferocious. But you are one of us. Therefore, arrogance, animosity, and cunning lead your captors there to the tyranny from which they receive their definition. Just like our captors here.
There is a common wickedness between there and here, Sister. Here, too, are the gulags and penal colonies that we call by euphemistic names. It seems that the evident, and maybe the only, difference between the two places is this: pretense. The red-hotness of my fury lives inside the fact that you are paying for sins that are not charged to you. These are white people’s problems, Sis. Unfortunately and unfairly, it is often their way to work out their tensions on us; project their sorrows onto us; make their troubles ours.
But do not allow my anger to overshadow these salient parts of my words: You are not alone. You are not forgotten. We are not at rest. We are not complete so long as you are trapped and at the mercy of peoples who treat life as an academic matter. The weeping shall not end until you are released. The shouting shall not end until you are released. The rage shall not end until you are released. The fighting shall not end until you are released.
We need you back now, Sister; and safely. We require it. We demand it. We rebuke that you are being used as someone’s pawn when it beats in anyone who has a heart that you are someone, period. America? This is not home; but it is the peril with which we are most familiar; where we are, at the very least, together. We have seen their foolishness and we have known it for many years. Though, we have never grown accustomed to it. And because we haven’t, we have no choice but to face one of the most difficult questions for a people of little power to face:
What are we willing to do to retrieve you?
The only answer worth entertaining is: anything.
May the Ancestors cover you, protect you, guide you, and deliver you safely into the arms of those who love you most.
Sincerely, your brother,