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“The Struggle Is Real”

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The Struggle is Real describes the plight of racial and gender inequality among the minority population emphasizing the gravity of a frustrating circumstance or hardship.   The term minority usually has an implied negative connotation of inferiority, marginality, and inadequacies.  The struggle among racial, gender and pay inequalities continues to this today. 

On October 9, 2016, Dr. Tamika Cross, an African-American physician posted on social media an incident involving a medical emergency which occurred on a Delta flight from Detroit to Minneapolis. The story went viral.   Even though we are in the year 2018, racial inequality is alive and well.  Dr. Cross described the experience of a passenger needing medical attention which sent her as she described into “doctor mode” midway through the flight. Sometime after take-off, a man two rows in front of her suddenly became unresponsive, and the flight attendant called for help. Dr. Cross, an obstetrician, and gynecologist said she immediately flagged down one of the crew members, offering to treat the man. She received a response she wasn’t prepared for.  The flight attendant responded to her, “Oh no, sweetie, put your hand down, we are looking for actual physicians, nurses or some type of medical personnel, we don’t have time to talk to you.” Dr. Cross felt the reason behind the flight attendant’s apparent sarcasm and disbelief was because she is black.  

Dr. Cross further stated, when the woman ahead of her screamed for someone to help her husband, “I naturally jumped into doctor mode as no one else was getting up.” As Dr. Cross was unbuckling her seat belt, she heard the flight attendant over the intercom tell the passengers on the plane to stay calm, that the passenger was just having a “night terror.” But moments later the man became unresponsive again. This time, Dr. Cross said, the flight crew asked whether there was a physician on board.  She said she raised her hand to volunteer, but a flight attendant shut her down. She attempted to inform the flight attendant that she was a physician, but she was continually cut off with condescending remarks. The crew then requested for any physicians on board to press their call buttons.  Dr. Cross stared at the flight attendant as she began to press her call button. She said, “Oh wow you’re an actual physician?” Dr. Cross replied yes, and the flight attendant stated; “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 responded “OBGYN, I work in Houston, I was in Detroit for a wedding and believe it or not they DO HAVE DOCTORS in Detroit. Now excuse me so I can help the man in need.”

At that point, Dr. Cross said, a white male came up and told the crew he was a physician as well. The flight attendant sent Dr. Cross back to her seat, stating the man had his “credentials,” only to return to her later for advice on how to treat the passenger’s low blood pressure. The passenger eventually regained consciousness and was answering questions.  Dr.  Cross said she felt she was dismissed because she didn’t fit the “description of a doctor.”

According to her LinkedIn profile, Dr. Cross works as a resident physician-obstetrician and gynecologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. The medical school’s website lists her as a fourth-year resident M.D.  Dr. Cross stated that she was “sick of being disrespected” as a woman of color in her profession and accused Delta Airlines flight operator of “blatant discrimination.” 

The disturbing reason why we don’t believe young, black women are really doctors; in her case, she said she felt profiled not because of what she looked like but because of what she didn’t look like. Being a Registered Nurse who has worked in critical care for over twenty plus years, I can personally relate to Dr. Cross’ response to the emergency.  When you are trained to respond to a crisis, you do not see color, ethnicity, or religion; you quickly move into action in an attempt to HELP and possibly save a life.  

Dr. Cross’ story is an example in which black professionals have not been utilized and exempted due to race.  In an official statement from Delta Airlines – this incident does not reflect Delta’s culture or condone discrimination toward their customers. Delta offered her SkyMiles. Dr. Cross stated, “I kindly refused Delta’s offer, and I don’t want SkyMiles for blatant discrimination.”

Some racial discrimination is often not as blatant as with Dr. Cross; however, it is real.  My daughter-in-law, Dr. Andrea Haynes who is a Pharmacist in Lubbock, Texas, also experienced discrimination.  Some of the comments were, “Oh, you’re a Pharmacist” and some customers ask to speak with another Pharmacist when they had a question.  On any level having to deal with discrimination in any form can be a humiliating and hurtful experience.  Dr. Haynes stated that she felt that if she was working in a hospital pharmacy or a different area of the city, she felt that the situation would be much different and possibility more racial discrimination.  

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

As the Night Shift Supervisor working in Lubbock, Texas at a small private hospital, I was called to assist in starting an intravenous line on a patient.  As I was setting-up in preparation to access the site, the patient asked if I would get his Nurse.  I informed the patient that I was his Nurse and would be taking care of starting his intravenous line to administer his medication.  Although he could see on my badge that I was a Registered Nurse he apparently could only see my color. After completing this procedure on multiple occasions, I must admit as an African American Registered Nurse these experiences have occurred with some limited frequency over the span of my career. 

Being a minority, there is a perception that you are not equal to your non-minority counterparts.  However, this is one of the experiences I believe God used to begin the development my inner strength.  This inner strength is an integral part of my positive self-identity and knowing who I am in Christ.  I simply made a choice.  I was not going to listen to my internal critic, a condemning conscience often influencing my thoughts that I did not measure up.  I had to be in control and make appropriate decisions and responses to others.  

The Gender Pay Gap Effect on Race / Ethnicity 

    The pay gap is one of the most pressing issues for women today.  It is real and pervasive; it affects all women.  However, there is another struggle that is real and is a problematic reality facing our nation is gender inequality. Although the issue of racial discrimination is an immoral and inequality issue; there are other injustices that cripple our society is evident in the practice of discrimination based on gender, as well as pay and race.  

Let’s face it; there has always been a dividing line in this country related to race and ethnicity as with the gender pay gap. When the lens of race is added to the equation of the pay gap, it becomes clear that the pay gap is somewhat more inferior for many women of color.  

Although the gender pay gap has progressively narrowed over time, women and especially women of color must admit that the struggle continues, it is real, and it is nowhere near to being abolished.  In fact, in recent years progress has actually been held up. Research reflects that the gap has narrowed since 1960, due largely to women’s progress in education and workforce participation and to men’s wages rising at a slower rate. Also, at the rate of change between 1960 and 2015, women are expected to reach pay equity with men in 2059. If changes continue at the slower rate seen since 2001, women will not reach pay equity with men until 2152.

It is evident that “The Struggle is Real.”  Whether labeled as, prejudice, injustice, or discrimination, it is RACISM. In this year of 2018, blatant racism has raised its ugly head like never before exposed to a larger degree with the aid of social media.  Whatever the reason, it has been a plague on humanity for centuries in various forms and to a range of degrees.   

“Racism oppresses its victims, but also binds the oppressors, who sear their consciences with more and more lies until they become prisoners of those lies. They cannot face the truth of human equality because it reveals the horror of the injustices they commit.”

Alveda King

We must accept the fact that God created one race, the human race.  God does not show partiality or favoritism to any of His creation.  No matter who you are; Jews, Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, or Arabs are not different races – they are just different ethnicities of the human race. 

Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what

they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome. 

Rosa Parks

Yes, the struggle continued and “The Struggle is Real.” After the past eight years of an African-American President, I actually thought there was a glimmer of positive change, cohesiveness, and oneness of purpose.  But looking forward, I see that it does not appear to be the case.  Just as I thought we were progressing and becoming more unified, the struggle for racial inequality is visibly deficient.  

Minorities can be viewed equally on paper; however, the hope, the dream, for the future is for minorities to be viewed as equals in person. Then the struggle will be over. 

The entire chapter of “The Struggle Is Real” is published in the book, The Professional Black Woman, co-authored by Barbra Gentry-Pugh. Please view the following websites for additional information. 


Barbra is an international certified holistic life coach. As a life coach, she shares prescriptions of the physical, emotional, and spiritual blockage that hinders the source of life which flows from the heartbeat of God. Barbra is an Award winning book author. Winner of Fresh Lifestyle Magazine 2017 BOOK AWARD and a PWN International Literacy Award, for her wonderful book, “Every Beat of My Heart”.

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