Apparently, some people just can’t believe that Black women are able to become doctors. In the second incident in less than two weeks, another Black female doctor has come forward to reveal how she faced discrimination while on an airplane.
Dr. Ashley Denmark was looking for rest and relaxation while on a flight to Hawaii to attend a college friend’s wedding. An hour into her flight from Seattle, a flight attendant spoke on the intercom and requested a doctor after a passenger became sick. Dr. Denmark decided to stand and provide help. However, she was stopped by two White flight attendants who gave her a look of confusion and asked, “Are you a doctor?” Dr. Denmark responded by saying, “Yes.” The flight attendants then asked to see her credentials. When Dr. Denmark showed her hospital badge, the two flight attendants ignored her and began speaking to two White women who said they were nurses. Dr. Denmark stood for four minutes as other passengers stared at her and whispered.
Finally, one flight attendant told Dr. Denmark to sit down because the two nurses would help the passenger in need. Dr. Denmark didn’t understand how two nurses could be better than allowing an actual doctor to treat a person who needed medical attention.
“Apparently the nurses and flight attendants didn’t think I was a doctor,” Dr. Denmark wrote on the Melanin In Medicine blog. “Why else were nurses being allowed to take charge of a medical situation when a doctor was present? Surely it couldn’t be the color of my brown skin? Healthcare is centered around group efforts from various medical professionals but, the doctor always serves as the leader making healthcare decisions…Despite overcoming and excelling academically and obtaining the title of Dr. in front of my name, I still get side-eye glances when I introduce myself as Dr. Denmark. Commonly, I’m mistaken for an assistant, janitor, secretary, nurse, student, etc., even when I have my white coat on.”
Dr. Denmark’s issue came days after Dr. Tamka Cross was also disrespected by White flight attendants who didn’t believe she was a doctor.
Both cases reveal how unconscious racism continues to be a major problem in America. There are a multitude of White individuals who wouldn’t consider themselves racist because they voted for President Obama, they have a few Black friends who they get drinks with, and they listen to some rap music. But when confronted with a situation where they must look beyond color, they allow biases to inform their decisions. So if two Black doctors can face discrimination on a plane, it’s highly likely that the average Black person will still face discrimination when seeking a job, a home loan, or career advancements.
“We are constantly overlooked, questioned, doubted and find ourselves in situations where we are working twice as hard as other non-African American Doctors just to prove we are good enough to be called doctors,” Dr. Denmark wrote. “Well, enough is enough. I feel it’s time to share the discrimination I have faced as an African American doctor. I’m sure I’m not alone and there are many other African American doctors like me who have endured discrimination in silence.”