Saturday, December 10, 2022

Willful Blindness

Merriam-Webster defines "wise" as "marked by deep understanding, keen discernment and a capacity for sound judgement." With Bakari Sellers a lawyer, if anyone still thought that being a lawyer confers wisdom even marginally beyond other citizens, they are properly disabused.

This past week, The New York Times reported "In July, a senior State Department official said that there were between 40 and 50 Americans being wrongfully detained by foreign governments."

Chief among them may be Marc Fogel, who had been teaching the children of American diplomats and was "arrested in August 2021 when he tried to enter Russia with a small amount of medical marijuana that had been prescribed for chronic pain."


As with Brittney Griner, Fogel was arrested with a small amount of drugs prescribed for medical use.  Sellers, implying that the Griner deal has been criticized because she is gay, black, or wears her hair differently than do whites, evidently is pleased that Foley- and others- have not been given the same attention. 

We know at least one reason the Biden Administration moved heaven and earth to gain the release of Griner and has not done so with others. Simon Hankinson, a Senior Research Fellow in the Border Security and Immigration Center of the Heritage Foundation, explained four months ago

The U.S. government distinguishes between Americans arrested and given due process and those who are "wrongfully detained." in the former case, U.S. embassies and consulates provide consular services, including prison visits, assistance with finding legal counsel, advocating with the host government for fair treatment of prisoners, and protesting any abuse.

In cases of "wrongful detention," the State Department makes additional efforts to obtain the release of the detained, including through diplomatic pressure and negotiation. A recent executive order from President Joe Biden expanded and emphasized those additional steps.

Griner, unlike many of the others detained abroad, was classified as "wrongfully detained."  

We have don't know why her imprisonment prompted that designation but we do know that on May 17

NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced he and WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert are working "side-by-side" in securing Griner's release. The process led Silver to communicate with "every level" of government.

Then on June 22

Forty advocacy groups including the National Organization for Women, Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD said they appreciated the Biden administration's efforts, which included labeling the 31-year-old "wrongfully detained" in May and assigning diplomats to work for her release.

But they said more needs to be done.

"The U.S. Government has acknowledged that Brittney is essentially a political pawn in classifying her as wrongfully detained," the groups said in a letter to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris that was seen by Reuters.

"While these have been critically important measures, we now urge you to make a deal to get Brittney back home to America immediately and safely."

Not to be outdone, in early July

More than 1,000 Black women have signed a letter to President Biden demanding the administration step up its efforts to free WNBA star Brittney Griner from Russian detainment.

The letter, signed by 1,200 women of all ages and professions, was the work of Win With Black Women, a collective of intergenerational and intersectional Black women across the nation. 

“It’s been more than 134 days and in our opinion that’s just 134 days too many for anyone to be subjected to the conditions [Griner] has been,” said Jotaka Eaddy, founder of Win With Black Women.

Griner, a center for the Phoenix Mercury and an Olympic gold medalist, was detained by the Russian Federal Customs Service in February for possession of vape cartridges containing hashish oil, a contraband substance in Russia. Her trial began July 1.

Signers of the letter included Bernice King, CEO of the King Center and daughter of Martin Luther King Jr.; Terri Jackson, executive director of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association; and Dawn Staley, basketball Hall of Famer, three-time Olympic gold medalist and head coach of South Carolina Gamecocks.

In a statement to The Hill, Jackson said the letter helps the organization “raise the alarm and convey a clear message of urgency to the President about our sister.”

“This letter in support of Brittney is an embrace from a powerful group of women that strengthens our resolve and allows us to keep fighting for BG,” Jackson said. “We are not The 144 without her. We need BG back home now with her family.”

Among the individuals Win With Black Women did not embrace as "our sister" are Fogel, the increasingly famous Paul Whelan, the relatively obscure Danny Fenster, and the roughly 40 other Americans who have been designated "wrongfully detained." Nor, evidently and not coincidentally, have they been the subjects of as much effort on the part of the Biden Administration.

Thus Bakari Sellers, lacking in discernment and sound judgement, is not wise. But he is clever. Brittney Griner was afforded preferential treatment because of race, gender, sexual preference, or celebrity status. Or perhaps she was the beneficiary of the squeaky wheel getting the grease because of race, gender, sexual preference, and/or celebrity status.  Whichever it was, or whatever combination it was, Sellers has executed a deft sleight of hand in which he has become the champion of privilege while so accusing critics.

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