The Perils of Not Listening (BIRM)

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The Perils of Not Listening (BIRM)

listenby baldilocks

You are going to have to do bet­ter than every­one else because you are black.”

For decades, upwardly mobile black par­ents have been telling the above to their chil­dren. And if the black child in ques­tion hap­pens to be a girl, that always fac­tors in. You, black female child, have to be dou­bly excel­lent because you have not one, but two “strikes” against you.

My par­ents said this to me rou­tinely dur­ing my for­ma­tive years. Many of my white friends are aghast at this advice and I’m puz­zled as to why, espe­cially tak­ing into account that I am in my 50s — which means that my par­ents grew up in the Bad Old Days, dur­ing which the expec­ta­tions were that a black cit­i­zen might have, at best, a high school diploma and would usu­ally have a pro­fes­sion where their hands, feet and backs were more essen­tial than the higher processes of their minds.

Now, of course, that has all changed dra­mat­i­cally. An Amer­i­can who is black and a woman can be sec­re­tary of state, attor­ney gen­eral, sur­geon gen­eral, or an astro­naut. Black female doc­tors, lawyers, nurses and other pro­fes­sion­als are every­where. (And, though we are talk­ing about black women, the exis­tence of the cur­rent pres­i­dent of the United States makes this point.)

Often these well-​educated, well-​employed women are air­line pas­sen­gers. And that brings us to this story.

Tamika Cross, a physi­cian, was mid­way through a flight from Detroit to Min­neapo­lis when a pas­sen­ger emer­gency sent her into “doc­tor mode.”

Some­time after take­off, a man two rows in front of her sud­denly became unre­spon­sive, she said, and flight atten­dants called for help.

Cross, an obste­tri­cian and gyne­col­o­gist, said she imme­di­ately flagged down one of the crew mem­bers, offer­ing to treat the man.

She got a response she wasn’t pre­pared for.

Oh no, sweetie, put [your] hand down,” Cross recalled the flight atten­dant say­ing. “We are look­ing for actual physi­cians or nurses or some type of med­ical per­son­nel, we don’t have time to talk to you.”

Dr. Cross is a black woman. From her Face­book post about the inci­dent:

Then over­head they paged “any physi­cian on board please press your but­ton”. I stare at her as I go to press my but­ton. She said “oh wow you’re an actual physi­cian?” I reply yes. She 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”) I stay seated. Mind blown. Blood boiling.

The more I think about this sit­u­a­tion, the more I think that the flight atten­dant should be fired not for racism, per se, but for what her pre­con­ceived notions — regard­less of they were – caused her to do: to tell Dr. Cross to sit down and shut up before the lat­ter could iden­tify her­self as a doc­tor. The sim­ple act of cut­ting of the physi­cian and ignor­ing her could have cost a man his life.

That act was likely caused by the flight attendant’s pre­con­ceived notions about doc­tors and about black women.

And whether those notions are jus­ti­fied or not, this mini-​drama does show why par­ents like mine tell their off­spring that black­ness is an obsta­cle to over­come. Still.

Juli­ette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was pub­lished in 2012. Her sec­ond novel will be done in 2016. Fol­low her on Twit­ter.

Please con­tribute to Juliette’s JOB: Her new novel, her blog, her Inter­net to keep the lat­ter going and COF­FEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Inde­pen­dent Jour­nal­ism — -»»>baldilocks

listenby baldilocks

“You are going to have to do better than everyone else because you are black.”

For decades, upwardly mobile black parents have been telling the above to their children.  And if the black child in question happens to be a girl, that always factors in. You, black female child, have to be doubly excellent because you have not one, but two “strikes” against you.

My parents said this to me routinely during my formative years. Many of my white friends are aghast at this advice and I’m puzzled as to why, especially taking into account that I am in my 50s—which means that my parents grew up in the Bad Old Days, during which the expectations were that a black citizen might have, at best, a high school diploma and would usually have a profession where their hands, feet and backs were more essential than the higher processes of their minds.

Now, of course, that has all changed dramatically. An American who is black and a woman can be secretary of state, attorney general, surgeon general, or an astronaut. Black female doctors, lawyers, nurses and other professionals are everywhere. (And, though we are talking about black women, the existence of  the current president of the United States  makes this point.)

Often these well-educated, well-employed women are airline passengers. And that brings us to this story.

Tamika Cross, a physician, was midway through a flight from Detroit to Minneapolis when a passenger emergency sent her into “doctor mode.”

Sometime after takeoff, a man two rows in front of her suddenly became unresponsive, she said, and flight attendants called for help.

Cross, an obstetrician and gynecologist, said she immediately flagged down one of the crew members, offering to treat the man.

She got a response she wasn’t prepared for.

“Oh no, sweetie, put [your] hand down,” Cross recalled the flight attendant saying. “We are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel, we don’t have time to talk to you.”

Dr. Cross is a black woman. From her Facebook post about the incident:

Then overhead they paged “any physician on board please press your button”. I stare at her as I go to press my button. She said “oh wow you’re an actual physician?” I reply yes. She 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”) I stay seated. Mind blown. Blood boiling.

The more I think about this situation, the more I think that the flight attendant should be fired not for racism, per se, but for what her preconceived notions—regardless of they were–caused her to do: to tell Dr. Cross to sit down and shut up before the latter could identify herself as a doctor. The simple act of cutting of the physician and ignoring her could have cost a man his life.

That act was likely caused by the flight attendant’s preconceived notions about doctors and about black women.

And whether those notions are justified or not, this mini-drama does show why parents like mine tell their offspring that blackness is an obstacle to  overcome. Still.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel will be done in 2016. Follow her on Twitter.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Independent Journalism—->>>>>baldilocks