A December 2020 Wall Street Journal column about Dr. Jill Biden angered me for so many reasons. Writer Joseph Epstein penned the following “Madame First Lady – Mrs. Biden – Jill – kiddo: a bit of advice on what might seem like a small but I think is not an unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr.’ before your name? Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels a touch fraudulent, not to mention comical.” Mr. Epstein is wrong on so many levels. What is ironic is that the word “doctor” is derived from the Latin word for “teacher.” Scholars used this word dating back to the 14th century, long before medical professionals.
I was so appalled by his writings that I had a difficult time sleeping that evening. I took this assault personal, as I could relate to Dr. Biden in a myriad of ways. She and I both have four degrees, including a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership. She and I both worked extremely hard for this degree as we dedicated countless of hours to courses and research. Dr. Biden experienced tragic loss in January 2015 with the loss of her stepson; Beau. My father passed away two months later. We both began our doctoral pursuits as wives and mothers although my husband passed away during my first year in the doctoral program at Dallas Baptist University.
It is unfortunate that two women who have overcome the obstacles I’ve described still do not receive the simple (and earned) acknowledgement of being called ‘Dr’ by some men. My personal concern is not just isolated to gender discrimination, I believe race also plays a factor.
I graduated from Dallas Baptist University in August 2020. My colleagues have been supportive for the most part, however, there are still individuals that intentionally refer to me as Ms. Bussle. I believe it is intentional because I have gently corrected these people and they still repeat the behavior. The culprits are all white and mostly men. Is it too much for the white male ego to acknowledge a black woman’s accomplishment? Does their envy rear its ugly head when they have not earned these same credentials? Do they secretly feel “who does she think she is?” My beliefs were affirmed when I saw the zoom meeting exchange between Tony Collins, a North Carolina city council member, and Dr. Carrie Rosario. The city council fired Mr. Collins for refusing to acknowledge Dr. Rosario as ‘Dr’ even after she corrected him. This exchange was a reminder to me that Black women are often dismissed regardless of our level of education.
I have personal relationships with many of my colleagues, therefore, I am simply “Jeannita” to them, as I should be. What becomes problematic is when I am being introduced to parents in a meeting or through correspondence. I also have a problem with coworkers whom I have no personal relationship with referring to me as Ms. Bussle. My professional title and earned honorific is Dr. Bussle. The end.
I shared my concerns with an African American colleague whom also holds a doctorate degree. This person agreed with my sentiments; the disrespect is intentional. Moving forward, if and when I feel disrespected in a professional environment I am going to correct the culprit publicly. I will be professional, yet assertive.
I am deeply curious to know what some of you feel about this topic. Feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to hear from you.
Love and light,
Dr. J :)