On Sunday, Dr. Tamika Cross was on a Delta flight from Detroit to Minneapolis when a man on board suddenly became unresponsive. Flight attendants asked passengers if there was a doctor who could help, and when Cross volunteered, she was told that they were looking for an “actual physician” and that she could put her hand down, sweetie. Whether it was because of her race (Cross is black), her age (28) or her gender (woman), Cross isn’t sure, but she does know this: That sort of behavior is not going to fly. (Sorry.)
By the end of the week, Cross’ post had been shared nearly 46,000 times on Facebook, along with 19,000 comments and nearly 80,000 “likes.” It also spurred a hashtag, #WhatDoctorsLookLike, populated with hundreds of entries.
On Friday, Delta issued a statement on its website, saying that the matter is being investigated and that the “experience Dr. Cross has described is not reflective of Delta’s culture or of the values our employees live out every day.” It goes on:
While there is much we can’t share because our investigation involves confidential personnel matters, we do want to share what we can.
Three medical professionals identified themselves on the flight in question. Only one was able to produce documentation of medical training and that is the doctor who was asked to assist the customer onboard. In addition, paramedics met the flight to assist the customer further.
Flight attendants are trained to collect information from medical volunteers offering to assist with an onboard medical emergency. When an individual’s medical identification isn’t available, they’re instructed to ask questions such as where medical training was received or whether an individual has a business card or other documentation and ultimately to use their best judgment.
Artemis Medical Society, which represents women physicians of color, also released a statement urging Delta to thoroughly investigate the incident, as well as publicly apologize to Cross:
“In this present day we are shocked that there are individuals and corporations who continue to demonstrate beliefs that certain individuals are unable to be a physician simply because of their ethnicity and/or gender.
“Delta Air Lines, as an Atlanta-based corporation, should be acutely aware of the history of racism and sexism in our nation and how it continues to cast a long shadow in our society.”
Cross’ post concludes with panicked flight staff realizing they’d fucked up big time and offering her “skymiles” for her trouble:
She came and apologized to me several times and offering me skymiles. 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 will not get away with this....and I will still get my skymiles....
Cross did not immediately respond to a request for comment, hopefully because she’s either out doing her job as an OB-GYN, or because she’s busy collecting her damn skymiles and profuse apology she deserves. We’ll update this post if we hear back.