A Black doctor said flight attendants on Delta Airlines didn’t believe she was really a doctor when she offered medical assistance to a passenger, telling her to return to her seat while asking help from two white nurses in what the doctor charges was discrimination against her for the color of her skin.
Ashley Denmark is the second Black woman doctor from the U.S. who shared her story about how she was discriminated against by flight staff on Delta.
Denmark said that on a flight from Chicago to Hawaii, she approached the staff on the flight to offer to help a passenger, but they asked her to show her credentials and even then seemed to doubt that she was a certified doctor.
In a blog post on Oct. 14 she said she told one white female attendant, “‘I have my hospital ID badge which shows I’m a physician,’ however, she continued to look puzzled then stated, ‘We have two nurses here who came first. You can have a seat now and we will let them handle it. If we need more help we will come and find you,'” Denmark quoted the woman as saying.
The physician suggested the nurses as well as the flight attendants, all of whom were white, did not believe her based on her being African American.
“Apparently the nurses and flight attendants didn’t think I was a doctor. Why else were nurses being allowed to take charge in a medical situation when a doctor was present? Surely it couldn’t be the color of my brown skin?” she asked sarcastically.
Last week another Black woman doctor, Tamika Cross, shared a Facebook post describing a similar experience on a flight with the same airline, where the staff did not believe she was a doctor when she offered to help an unresponsive passenger, instead opting for a white male doctor who had approached the scene after her.
“Another ‘seasoned’ white male approaches the row and says he is a physician as well. She says to me ‘thanks for your help but he can help us, and he has his credentials.’ (Mind you he hasn’t shown anything to her. Just showed up and fit the ‘description of a doctor’) I stay seated. Mind blown. Blood boiling,” Cross said in a Facebook post from Oct 9.
In her blog post, Denmark further complained that she, and other African American doctors, are often mistaken for assistants, janitors, secretaries, nurses and students, even when they are wearing the doctor’s signature white coat.
While being a full-time doctor is already a demanding job, Denmark said that being an African American physician is many times more difficult because of the discrimination they regularly face.
“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. Well enough is enough.”