Seema Jilani, a prominent, well-educated physician, claimed she was subjected to blatant racism at the White House Correspondents' Dinner last month, all because she happens to be Muslim.
In a first-person account of her experience in the Huffington Post, Jilani recounts how she was treated by security guards at the star-studded event.
As the spouse of a guest — Jilani's husband is a journalist at a major American newspaper — Jilani was only permitted to attend the pre-dinner cocktail hour, not the dinner itself. As she prepared to leave the hotel after the cocktail hour, she realized her husband, who had gone into the main ballroom, still had her keys.
She detailed how she couldn’t reach her husband by phone, so she approached the security guards who were tasked with checking tickets of those going into the ballroom. Jilani explained her situation but was told she wouldn’t be allowed in without showing a ticket.
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"I watched as they let countless other women through — all Caucasian — without even asking to see their tickets," she writes. "I asked why they were allowing them to go freely when they had just told me that I needed a ticket.
"My suspicion was confirmed when I saw the men ask a blonde woman for her ticket and she replied, 'I lost it.' The snickering tough-guy responded, 'I'd be happy to personally escort you down the escalators [to the ballroom] ma'am.'"
When Jilani again persisted and explained that she was a doctor, and her husband a well-known journalist, the guard told her, "We have to be extra careful with you all after the Boston bombings." They also threatened to call Secret Service to throw her out of the building.
"This filthy, highly infectious plague is transforming our nation into one of unwarranted suspicion and anguish inflicted on disenfranchised, voiceless people of color," Jilani writes. "And now, it is no longer my job to enlighten you. To quote what you so often tell ethnic communities, 'It's time for you to step up to the plate, take responsibility, and stop taking what I have earned,' my integrity, my dignity."
Twitter users and those who read her article were outraged at Jilani's experience.
"I am embarrassed that you were treated so rudely," one commenter wrote under the Huffington Post story. "There are many of us who welcome you and all others of what ever ethnicity or religion or national origin. It is truly sad to hear that racism and discrimination are still a reality here in the USA where we are all immigrants (except native Americans) and are all sisters and brothers and should be treated equally and with dignity and respect."
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"I'm a Caucasian male and so am not subjected to the bigotry inflicted on my non-Caucasian brothers and sisters in America. Yet, my stomach turns every time I witness or read about the intolerance that is alive and well in this country," another wrote. "I take to heart Rev. King's wish that each of us be judged on the content of our character and not the color of our skin. I am committed to doing the right thing regardless of how outnumbered I find myself. You aren't alone Dr. Jilani, even though sometimes it feels that way."
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