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  • Jyoti Grewal

What is white privilege?

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

This morning I awoke to the news of a racially motivated attack on a 16 year old girl because she was wearing a hijab. This act happened in the light of day in a famous city park. The act was by a 28 year old white woman who shouted racially motivated slurs and then proceeded to rip the hijab off this unsuspecting teenager. She then ran away and was caught later by the police. As my stomach turned listening to this awful incident, my mind retrieved a memory from a long time ago in my own life.

I was a newly minted graduate and starting my first official job. When I introduced myself to a new coworker, she asked me what the origin of my name was. I explained I was Indian. She asked, "dot or feather?" I remember standing there speechless, somewhat embarrassed and with a feeling that I had somehow been put in my place. It reminded me for the umpteenth time that I would always have to hide certain parts of myself and work a bit harder to fit in and be a part of the group. This group, this norm of society, for me, is white privilege. It's more than finding bandages and foundation to match my skin color. It's the sense of being the norm and the standard of society that comes as a built-in advantage. It's the automatic camaraderie and shared experience granted you because of foundational things like one's name and color to more fundamental advantages given by history and systemic bias. It's being inside or outside the invisible circle.

This invisible circle is what gave this 28 year old today the audacity to attack, belittle and violate another human being. This unspoken privilege allowed her to speak and spew her words of hatred onto another being. This privilege has now sent the attacked into years of trauma, suffering and shame. Is this the price for a mid-afternoon walk if you're not white?

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