Monday, October 17, 2016

Black Doctor Recounts Blatant Racism, Spreads Blatant Weight Bias

By now you've probably already heard the story about Dr. Tamika Cross. She's a 4th year medical resident at the University of Texas Health Science Centre and she was on a flight when she tried to answer an overhead ask for an onboard physician to tend to an in-flight medical emergency. Instead of her help being welcomed, she was dismissed by some combination of racism and sexism as the flight crew would not believe that she, a black woman, was a physician.

She wrote up her undeniably awful experience on Facebook and the post went viral and at least at the time of me writing this, has been shared over 45,000 times, has received over 130,000 reactions, and has inspired the awesome #WhataDoctorLooksLike hashtag on Twitter.

The story was picked up by dozens of media outlets including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, but missing in all of their coverage was the term Dr. Cross used to describe the flight attendant.

She called her a heifer.

Weight bias is a real social justice issue. Briefly, weight bias has proven medical and psychological consequences, it has been shown to reduce a person's earning potential, affect their hiring and advancement opportunities, and restricts their academic advancement (click the link if you don't believe me). Weight bias is also now the number one cause of schoolyard bullying.

Consider for a moment this same story but instead of stating,
"Then this heifer has the nerve to ask for my input on what to do next about 10 mins later",
Dr. Cross had said,
"Then this kike has the nerve to ask",
"this chink",
"this wop".
Would the story have had the same pickup? Or would the story have even been picked up at all?

I have yet to read a single piece about Dr. Cross' blatantly racist treatment mention her use of the term heifer which in turn speaks to just how normal and acceptable weight bias is. Moreover, that a person who was blatantly judged on the basis of her appearance, who notes in her own post that blatant discrimination on any grounds is "not right", calmly wields a derogatory appearance based slur as if it's no big deal, shows just how far society still has to go on this very real issue.

Racism and sexism are inexcusable. Weight bias should be too.

[For more on the realities of weight bias, please consider a tour around the Rudd Centre's Weight Bias and Stigma page]