A black doctor claims that when she volunteered to help a man on a Delta flight who needed medical attention, a flight attendant stopped her out of apparent disbelief that the young woman of color was really a medical professional.
“I’m sure many of my fellow young, corporate America working women of color can all understand my frustration when I say I’m sick of being disrespected,” Tamika Cross wrote on Sunday in a now-viral Facebook post.
Cross, whose LinkedIn profile lists her as a resident OB-GYN physician at the University of Texas Health Science Center, says that she was on a Delta flight from Detroit to Minneapolis on Sunday when a passenger two rows ahead started yelling for help because her husband was unresponsive.
According to Cross’ post, the flight attendant — who initially dismissed the problem as a “night terror” — ultimately yelled out for a doctor, and Cross raised her hand.
“She said to me, ‘Oh no sweetie, put ur hand down, we are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel, we don’t have time to talk to you.’ I tried to inform her that I was a physician but I was continually cut off by condescending remarks,” Cross wrote.
Cross claimed in her post that after she insisted she was a doctor, the flight attendant allegedly said, “Oh wow, you’re an actual physician?” and asked to see her credentials.
She went on to write that a white male approached and said he was a physician, and the flight attendant immediately told Cross they didn’t need her help because they had him to assist.
About 10 minutes after the passenger began to recover, Cross said the flight attendant approached her for further assistance with the man in distress. She also wrote that the flight attendant ultimately apologized and offered her Delta Skymiles, but that wasn’t going to cut it.
“I kindly refused. This is going higher than her. I don’t want Skymiles in exchange for blatant discrimination. Whether this was race, age, gender discrimination, it’s not right,” she wrote.
Cross’ post has garnered thousands of supportive comments, some recounting similar instances of racism and/or sexism in the professional world.
“I do not think this is unique to only me, as I know many other women, or people of color who have had similar experiences in the workplace,” Cross told The Huffington Post in an email. “Regardless of us introducing ourselves as the physician, there are frequently innate biases that allow people to somehow ‘not hear that’ and assume you have a different role.”
And this time, the stakes were especially high.
“In this specific scenario, it was unique in that someone’s life was on the line and despite my willingness to help, I was unable to provide medical assistance,” she said.
Delta said in a statement to The Huffington Post on Thursday that the company is working with Cross and investigating the incident. On Friday, the company released another statement to help explain its work practices and express that it’s “troubled by any accusations of discrimination.”
Delta spokeswoman Catherine Sirna said, “Discrimination of any kind is never acceptable. We’ve been in contact with Dr. Cross and one of our senior leaders is reaching out to assure her that we’re completing a full investigation.”
Cross said she received a voicemail from a Delta representative but has not spoken with company directly yet. She clarified that she has no desire to get the flight attendant fired, though she does think she could benefit from sensitivity training.
“I want to make everyone aware that discrimination happens everywhere, even in situations that seem less likely,” she said. “As an educated professional, I wanted to share this story in hopes of bringing light to this issue in our community, in hopes for change in the near future.
This story has been updated with comments from Tamika Cross and with a new statement from Delta.