A Woman of Color Says Flight Crew Refused to Believe She Was a Doctor

Beth Greenfield
Senior Writer

When a passenger recently became frighteningly unresponsive midflight from Detroit to Minneapolis, causing his wife to scream in terror, there was luckily a physician, Tamika Cross, sitting just two rows behind them. But Cross never got the chance to help, due to a flight attendant who rebuffed her efforts because, as the doctor believes, she is a woman of color, and couldn’t have possibly been an “actual physician.”

Cross, who lives and practices as an ob-gyn in Houston and had been in Detroit to attend a wedding, posted a lengthy Facebook post about the upsetting encounter.

“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,” began her Oct. 9 post, which has since been shared more than 20,600 times and has inspired more than 54,000 reactions and 7,100 comments.

After hearing the woman scream for help, Cross continued, “I naturally jumped into Doctor mode as no one else was getting up. Unbuckle my seatbelt and throw my tray table up and as I’m about to stand up, flight attendant says ‘everyone stay calm, it’s just a night terror, he is alright.’ I continue to watch the scene closely. A couple mins later he is unresponsive again and the flight attendant yells ‘call overhead for a physician on board.’ I raised my hand to grab her attention. She said to me ‘oh no sweetie put your 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.”

After hearing the page for a doctor, Cross said she pressed her button, which was met with surprise from the flight attendant, “ ‘Oh wow, you’re an actual physician?’ I reply yes. She said, ‘let me see your credentials. What type of doctor are you? Where do you work?’ … Bombarding me with questions.” Cross says she answered all her questions and was about to begin helping the man, when suddenly, she said, “Another ‘seasoned’ white male approached 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. (Man is responding to his questions and is seemingly better now Thank God).”

Yahoo Beauty reached out to Delta, which responded with the following statement: “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.”

Yahoo Beauty did not yet hear back from Cross in response to a request for further comment. But the supportive comments on her Facebook page say a great deal. “I’m embarrassed beyond words to know this is still going on in this country. You have faced hurdles that most women have not, as a woman and as an African American, you became a doctor! You fought hard through schooling, earned your medical degree…. and now you have to face discrimination, despite proving what a strong, capable PERSON you are?!” noted one. “Wow. You handled the situation with such grace. ‘When they go low, we go high,’” praised another.

Yet one more said, “I can truly relate to how you must have felt in the moment. I work as a medical professional and frequently get degraded below my educational level because of racist perceptions. I clap back by showing just how smart I am each time. You handled the situation well and with patience.”

Cross noted at the end of her post that the flight attendant eventually came back to her to seek medical advice on the man’s situation. And after it was clear the man was going to be all right, she offered Cross an apology — along with some free Sky Miles. “I kindly refused,” Cross wrote. “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 will not get away with this … and I will still get my skymiles.” Stay tuned for an update.

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