Black Doctor Forced To Cover Up On American Airlines Flight, Claims Race Was A Factor

Texas family physician, Dr. Tisha Rowe, was briefly removed from a recent American Airlines flight and required to cover herself up with a blanket before being allowed back on the plane.

Dr. Rowe, who identifies as African-American and Caribbean-American, said she was humiliated in front of her 8-year-old son, in a widely shared tweet about the incident. The tweet included a selfie of the romper she was wearing on the June 30 flight from Jamaica to Miami.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the temperature in Kingston, Jamaica was 94 degrees, and the temp in Miami was 89 degrees, so the attire Dr. Rowe wore for her flight should have been acceptable with the weather. 

However, Dr. Rowe said she was walking to her seat when a black male flight attendant asked her to return to the front of the plane. Then another flight attendant, also black, spoke to her about her clothing while on the jet bridge.

Dr. Rowe said, “She poses the question to me, ‘Do you have a jacket?’ I said, ‘No, I do not.’ I’ve been given no explanation as to why I was taken off the plane. So finally she says, ‘You’re not boarding the plane dressed like that.’ Then they started to give me a lecture about how when I got on the plane, I better not make a scene or be loud.”

Dr. Rowe’s son was in tears once they reached their seats and used one of the blankets given to her to cover his head. During the flight, she posted to Facebook, “We are policed for being black. I’ve seen white women with much shorter shorts board a plane without a blink of an eye. I guess if it’s a ‘nice ass’ vs. a Serena Booty, it’s O.K.”

American Airlines issued an apology and agreed to issue a refund to Dr. Rowe, according to spokeswoman Shannon Gilson.

“We were concerned about Dr. Rowe’s comments, and reached out to her and our team at the Kingston airport to gather more information about what occurred,” Ms. Gilson said. “We apologize to Dr. Rowe and her son for their experience and have fully refunded their travel. We are proud to serve customers of all backgrounds.”

This isn’t the first time American Airlines has been in the hot seat for discrimination complaints. In 2017, the N.A.A.C.P. issued a national travel advisory for the airline, warning black travelers that they could be subjected to “discriminatory” or “disrespectful” treatment. The group cited a series of situations involving black passengers being removed from flights or bumped from first class.

The NAACP lifted the travel advisory after the airline agreed to train its 130,000 employees, as well as the adoption of a new discrimination complaint resolution process.

Dr. Rowe’s lawyer, Geoffrey Berg, said she is considering litigation against American Airlines. “They wanted credit for the apology and said, ‘This is not how we want our airline portrayed,’ which tells me they are prioritizing their image above their actions,” Berg said.

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