A Memphis woman is planning to file a complaint with the state medical board after her doctor called her “Aunt Jemima.”
Lexi Carter said she could barely believe it when it happened the first time — but then he did it again, she told local news station WMC.
Carter said her dermatologist, Dr. James Turner, greeted her by calling her the racially charged name — which also happens to be a brand name of breakfast food products. “He had a young girl — physician’s assistant trainee, a student — with him, and he looked at me and he goes, ‘Hi, Aunt Jemima.'”
The name Aunt Jemima has a long history in American culture. Its roots are firmly in the minstrel show period — when white performers wore blackface — and is a remnant of plantation and slave culture. The name, character, and history all have racial undertones, to say the very least. How a modern-era doctor could believe calling a patient this name would be a so-called “blunder” isn’t clear, but that’s precisely what the doctor said. When he was contacted by local news, Turner admitted to calling the woman “Aunt Jemima” and released a public apology to Carter:
“Ms. Carter is one of our very dear patients and has been for years. She is one of many African American patients and I count it a privilege to be their doctor. Anything I said that tarnishes that image and my respect for her was a misspoken blunder on my part and was not intended to show disrespect for Ms. Carter. I am very sorry for that misunderstanding.”
For her part, Carter remains perplexed. “It’s just the most horrible feeling, really,” Carter said after the incident. “And I try to understand it, and I don’t understand it.”
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