Professionals of color in fields historically dominated by white people – including law, medicine and politics – find themselves bracing for encounters with those who will doubt them. Fatima Cody Stanford, a physician whose credentials were questioned by flight attendants in October when she was trying to treat a passenger in distress, later explained that she always carries her medical license to help disarm skeptics in such situations. Professionals of color say their efforts to ward off bias at work affect how they dress, what they carry in their wallets and how they behave. Anthony Denmark, a 33-year-old lawyer in South Carolina, says he has been patted down at courthouses where white colleagues walked in without a search. In his car, he hangs work badges from the rearview mirror so he will always have identification within reach. “At times I have had to show my license to my own clients before they believed that I was the attorney working on their case,” he said. In the health care field, black, Hispanic and Latino workers – who make up a low proportion of medical school graduates in the United States – often encounter implicit bias, or unconscious assumptions about race. Dr. Ashley Denmark has overheard patients say they have not seen a doctor, even though she just examined them. “It plays to a bigger problem that we have to normalize our presence in the field,” Dr. Denmark said. Other doctors report having to prominently display their badges, emphasize to patients they are their doctor and be conscious of not appearing too “aggressive” when giving orders.
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