Thursday 2 February 2023
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Straight No Chaser: The Honor and Privilege of Being Called “Doctor!”

Op/Ed By Gloria Winston Al-Sarag


gloria_winston_al-sarag2Time and time again, you have heard me say we are all victims of our upbringing. What we value, what we respect, and how we treat others will likely be the end result of lessons we’ve initially learned in our homes.

We have been taught other lessons, as a result of our lives’ experiences and exposures, as well. And, consequently, because I am a descendant of a long line of educators, I have been raised to appreciate and respect those who have furthered themselves educationally. I believe those who have achieved titles, credentials, and letters after their names should be respected, and acknowledged, when they have been introduced or greeted. This is not to say they are better than anyone, but to acknowledge the fact that they have taken the time to invest in their educations longer than most.

Whenever any individual takes the time to go to school, and earn letters next to his or her name, to me, it is not an accomplishment which should be taken lightly. Therefore, I am of the opinion that those who have worked tirelessly to obtain a Ph.D. have also earned the right to be called “Dr.” And, even though I am guilty of addressing those who have earned that right by their first names, it does annoy me when it happens, and it makes me feel, at times, that I have disrespected them.

One of my best friends, and mentors, Dr. Walter Cooper never considered it insulting to be addressed as “Walter;” however, it has usually really bothered me to hear others call him anything less than “Dr. Cooper.” We also have many in our community who are deserving of the title, and have accepted the shortened version, such as Doc Marilyn Grant, Doc Melody or Doc Leonard Brock.

In spite of this, there was a recent article written about Dr. Leonard Brock, one that appeared in the Rochester Business Journal, which had been well-written, and more than deserving, however; it annoyed me that he was not addressed as “Dr. Brock” from the onset.

I recognize I may be making a big deal about nothing to some; but, I believe respecting someone’s title will ultimately show more than enough appreciation for the journey they have taken to get where they are.

We have been conditioned to address those who have medical degrees, or who have cared for us health-wise, as “Dr.,” and I guess I’ve never understood why respect for those who have Ph.D.s, or higher, has not been given the same consideration. The first person who received a Ph.D. I can remember being up close and personal with was Dr. Freddie Thomas. He and his wife Midge were personal friends of my parents, and there had not only been something in his smile, but in his aura, which I automatically held in high esteem.

And, other than medical doctors like Dr. Anthony Jordan, and Dr. Charles Lunsford, my next memory is that of meeting Dr. Walter Cooper. It was at a time when he had no car, and used to ride his bicycle to the U of R to complete his doctorate studies. I was in elementary school at the time, and remember he used to visit my next door neighbor, Dr. Jordan, because, to my knowledge, he was friends with Dr. Jordan’s kids. Their names were Millie, Numpty, and Rodney.

Dr. Alice Young was also an important person in my life. She and my mom, as I have mentioned before, had grown up in Warren County, in Warrenton, North Carolina. Both moved to Rochester, and married men named “James,” and both of their husbands worked together almost 40 years, at Art Craft Optical Company. I had always found the coincidences to be curious.

However, Dr. Young decided to further her education, and obtain her Ph.D., while my mom went into business; thus ending the similarities in their journeys.

However, I digress.

And, out of natural respect, Alice Young has been “Dr. Young” to me ever since.

In addition, why many, and all, mentions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. do not address him as such, has annoyed me for decades. He earned the title, but many in the media have still refused to acknowledge it. Then, of course, is the biggest insult of all time. Whenever the co-founder of the Black Panther Party has been mentioned, he has never been given credit for the Ph.D. he earned. Dr. Huey P. Newton earned and deserved the right to be called “Dr.”

By not calling him “Dr.,” those in the media who have wanted to re-write, and disrespect, our history have been allowed to do just that. As a result, whenever I see his name in print, I make the correction. He left this universe with the honor, distinction, and the right to be called Dr. Huey P. Newton. It’s as simple as that.

There are many instances  in our community when those who have earned this right should be addressed with this automatic respect. And, we are the ones who, as a community, should stand up and address this oversight at every opportunity we have been given. In my opinion, for the media to overlook our educational journeys is another slap in our faces. At times, the oversight may be due to ignorance, but, more often than not, the failure to do so is likely by design, and is something which has fed into the media’s refusal to respect blacks who have taken their educational journeys above and beyond the norm.

It matters not, to me, whether you agree or disagree. However, my point is; we need to stop allowing others to disrespect the brightest minds in our community.

Yet, someone is probably reading this, and misinterpreting my words, for sure. So, let me clarify by saying, any degree a person has obtained is worthy of consideration and respect. It is for this reason, I am trying to shine a spotlight on those who would willfully ignore the scholars in our community.

Downplaying, and refusing to mention their titles, in writing, is another form of genocide to me. BTW, when you see Alisha Roer, she too, just this year, has earned the right to be called “Dr.”

Of course, the conspiracy theorist in me has more than kicked in. However, I am saying that, if someone has earned a Ph.D., they have the RIGHT to be called “Dr.” It’s just a respect thing. And, to me, it is something that needs to be reinforced. It may not matter to the media; however, my upbringing will not allow it not to matter to me. How do you feel about it?