Tennessee Doctor Who Referred to Black Patient as ‘Aunt Jemima’ Says It Was a ‘Misspoken Blunder’
A Tennessee doctor has apologized for greeting his Black female patient with an insulting racial term — but the scorned woman says it’s too little, to late for that.
Memphis resident Lexi Carter said she hasn’t been able to sleep since her doctor, Dr. James Turner, came in to the examination room during her visit on July 11 and referred to her as Aunt Jemima.
“I was just sitting there waiting to be seen and he walked in,” Carter told local station WMC Action News 5. “He had a young girl, a physician’s assistant trainee, a student with him and he looked at me and he goes ‘Hi Aunt Jemima.’ ”
Carter said the doctor used the term more than once and didn’t apologize at the time.
The popular breakfast food brand, owned by the Quaker Oats Company, has been criticized in the past for its stereotypical image of an enslaved Black woman, which was changed in 1989. The New York Daily News reported that descendants of the two women who inspired the Aunt Jemima character filed a lawsuit in August 2014, seeking $2 billion in revenue for the likeness. The suit was dismissed in February.
“It was an insult, a racial ethnic insult, a joke,” Carter said. “It is putting me on a level of someone who’s subservient with a smile — kind of Stepin Fetchit. It was very derogatory, very demeaning, especially for someone who prides myself in being none of that.”
Dr. Turner confessed to using the offensive term, but said he apologized to his patient immediately afterward.
“Ms. Carter is one of our very dear patients and has been for years,” the doctor said in a statement to WMC Action News 5. “She is one of many African-American patients, and I count it a privilege to be their doctor.”
“Anything I said that tarnishes that image and my respect for her was a misspoken blunder on my part and was not intended to show disrespect for Ms. Carter,” he added. “I am very sorry for that misunderstanding.”
For Carter, however, the damage has already been done. She told the station she plans to file a complaint with the state medical board.