Tamika Cross wasn’t trying to spark a social media firestorm when she stood up on her Delta flight from Houston to Detroit last Sunday. She just knew there was a medical emergency, as a woman screamed that her husband was unresponsive, and as a doctor, she knew she had to help.
But after a flight attendant stopped her, refusing to believe she was a licensed physician, and she posted her story to Facebook, a social media firestorm did erupt, with many accusing the flight attendant of racism and sexism for assuming Cross, a black woman, could not be a doctor.
In response, hundreds of black female doctors have used the hashtag #WhatADoctorLooksLike on Twitter and Facebook to fight the prevailing attitude that physicians are only white males.
Delta has since responded in a statement that it is investigating the incident. The airline said three individuals identified themselves as doctors on the flight, but only one was able to produce documentation of medical training.
But that hasn’t stopped some from saying they plan to boycott the airline, while others have said Cross’s experience is a common one in the medical world.
According to a 2014 Bureau of Labor statistics report, just 6.4 percent of physicians and surgeons in the U.S. identify as African-American, and 37.9 percent are women. Those numbers are slightly up from 2004, when, according to an Association of American Medical Colleges study, African-Americans made up just 3.3 percent of all physicians.