Woman files lawsuit over 'Aunt Jemima' comment by doctor

Updated: Jul. 12, 2018 at 10:02 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Mid-South woman is suing her dermatologist after she said he used a racially charged name in the exam room.

This comes a year after the allegations first made headlines.

Lexi Carter said she couldn't believe it when her dermatologist called her Aunt Jemima.

The civil action filed by her attorney is asking for an apology and money.

"This was a very devastating thing to her and part of the issue is that it was taken so lightly by the doctor and when given the opportunity to sort of make it better, at least in the beginning, he didn't do so," said Carter's attorney Van Turner.

Carter went to her dermatologist Dr. James Turner last year when she said he called her a racially charged name.

"I was just sitting there waiting to be seen," Carter said. "He had a young assistant trainee, a student with him. And he looked at me and he goes hi Aunt Jemima. You know it took me back a little."

Carter said Dr. Turner called her Aunt Jemima more than once.

Aunt Jemima is the face of pancake mix and syrup and comes from an old Minstrel song "Old Aunt Jemima," hearkening from the Old South plantation "Mammy" who cooked and nurtured white children on the plantation.

Carter said when Dr. Turner referred to her as Aunt Jemima, it made her feel awful.

"It was an insult, racial, ethnic insult, a joke," Carter said. "It's putting me on a level of someone subservient with a smile. Kind of Step n' Fetch It."

In 2017, Dr. Turner issued a statement saying he valued Ms. Carter as a patient and "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. I am very sorry for that misunderstanding."

That was not enough for Carter, who filed a complaint with the state medical board and a civil action for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

She is asking for damages, just under $2,500 in part to recoup the cost of counseling she sought to cope with the distress.

"She's asking for an apology, a formal apology," Turner said. "She's asking for a measure of relief which would prevent him from doing this in the future and which would you know make him understand."

We tried to contact Dr. Turner, but his office said we would have to speak with the practice manager.

We were transferred to that number and left a message but have not gotten a call back.

At this time, it does not appear Dr. Turner has an attorney.

Copyright 2018 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.