Breaking news: Ben Carson is NOT the only Black doctor in the United States. I repeat, Ben Carson is not the only Black doctor in the United States.
If you’ve been following the story of Tamika Cross, a Black doctor who was rejected upon attempting to administer medical aid on a Delta flight last Sunday, you know the basics. If you missed it, here’s the gist.
Cross is a 28-year old physician, works at the Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in Houston and is in her fourth year of residency. She posted about the incident on Facebook and I’ve pulled the key piece out here:
[The flight attendant] said “let me see your credentials. What type of Doctor are you? Where do you work? Why were you in Detroit?” (Please remember this man is still in need of help and she is blocking my row from even standing up while
Bombarding me with questions).
I respond “OBGYN, work in Houston, in Detroit for a wedding, but believe it or not they DO HAVE doctors in Detroit. Now excuse me so I can help the man in need”. Another “seasoned” white male approaches 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”)
As all these stories go, the story goes viral, the media reports on it and everyone has varying opinions. I was personally intrigued by this, not for the content itself–Cross is posting a personal anecdote on a personal Facebook page–but for the media’s response. I’m not talking that random news site your far out uncle posts from with skeevy ads and headlines screaming of conspiracy. I’m talking big M Media.
Let’s just look at the headlines run by the New York Times, NBC, and Fox News.
Black Doctor Says Delta Flight Attendant Rejected Her; Sought ‘Actual Physician’ -New York Times
Delta investigating black female doctor’s accusations of ‘blatant discrimination’ -Fox News
Black Female Doctor: Delta Discriminated, Barred Me From Sick Passenger -NBC
We’ll start with the Times’ headline. Pretty straight forward, but note that it doesn’t mention discrimination–just that Cross (who is Black) said the flight attendant rejected her under the assumption that she was not an actual physician. The use of quotation marks here is as a scare quote, also known as a sneer quote. We, the audience and the Times, are sneering at the idea that Cross is not a doctor. Meanwhile Fox places the sneer quotes around blatant discrimination, implying that the discrimination is false. On the other hand, NBC forgoes any quotes and simply uses a colon to express that this statement, factual or no, is what Cross said.
The last paragraph was something you probably knew intuitively, simply by reading the headlines. I didn’t need you to explain this, this was a stupid post! But consider this: you may not have thought about the bias in the construction of these headlines (I didn’t upon first seeing the Times’). Now think about all the people in the world who, skimming through Facebook, see these headlines and internalize them, without even reading the article. Words matter (despite what Trump says) and punctuation matters just as much. Does it seem so stupid now?
Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.