Does race determine your worth?

Tamika Cross, a practicing OBGYN, experienced racial discrimination on a Delta flight when she attempted to help an unconscious man and a flight attendant said they were looking for actual medical personnel. (Tamika Cross/Facebook)

In 2016, we tend to find ourselves living in two simultaneous worlds. There is the first, in which we wholeheartedly agree that racial profiling is not only wrong, but utterly unjust and offensive. It is a massive bubble in which we are all the same, regardless of race, class or gender. We are all human beings and should be treated as such. This is the utopian world.

The second world we live in is the one that constantly threatens to burst that bubble. This world serves as a constant reminder of the harsh realities we so often choose to ignore. Although it is great that a significant portion of the population no longer denies that racial profiling and discrimination exists to this day, Americans still tend to believe situations that arise are misunderstandings rather than calculated cases of discrimination.

On Oct. 9, a woman by the name of Tamika Cross updated her Facebook status  to alert the world of an atrocious case of discrimination that she faced. The post has been shared over 48,000 times, and has been picking up steam on other social media platforms as well.

Cross explained that on her Delta flight from Houston to Detroit, an individual seated two rows in front of her started exclaiming in panic that her husband was unconscious. The flight attendants assured the passengers that the situation was under control, but quickly the man became unresponsive again and the flight attendant yelled to ask for a physician onboard.

Cross, a practicing OBGYN, raised her hand and attempted to get up to help the patient, and was then told, “’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.”

Cross repeatedly told the flight attendant that she was a practicing physician, and instead of immediately allowing her to help the patient (still unresponsive), she began bombarding her with questions. She asked Cross for her credentials, where she worked and her reasons for coming to Detroit. During this process, a man approached the area and said he was a physician, and was immediately allowed to asses the patient’s health as he more accurately “fit the description of a doctor” with appropriate credentials.

After all of this, the flight attendant ended up coming back to Cross and asking for her help in the follow-up for the patient’s vitals and blood sugar assessment. When the situation was finally under control, the flight attendant decided it was time to apologize and offered Delta SkyMiles, which Cross refused to accept.

For Cross and many others, situations like this arise every day. As Americans, we fool ourselves into believing we have adequately combatted discrimination by implementing diversity quotients in schools and facilitating outreach programs for people of ethnic minorities. What good is a diversity quotient, however, if the qualified minority doctors are not allowed to help patients requiring immediate assistance in emergency situations?

Some observers of this situation have said that this entire fiasco was unfortunate, but boils down to a miscommunication. The flight attendant was simply unaware that Cross was a practicing physician, and there was no discrimination involved.

To those observers, I implore you to see reason. Perhaps the first comment could be passed off as ignorance. However, the flight attendant’s pointed questioning of Cross speaks volumes about her true feelings. It is deplorable to see her differential treatment of Cross, who was so eager to help the patient immediately, and the male doctor who approached the scene later. The white male doctor was immediately accepted as a physician without being questioned, while Cross had to spend precious time proving she was in fact a doctor. I hope to one day live in a world where these gross double-standards no longer exist and race no longer defines an individual’s worth.


Gulrukh Haroon is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at gulrukh.haroon@uconn.edu.