Dr. Alice Han, an accomplished medical professional, women’s health expert, and a TEDx speaker, opened up about allegedly being subjected to some racial profiling immediately after moving to Australia.
Originally from Toronto, the Korean-Canadian obstetrician and gynecologist had moved to Melbourne back in May after receiving a research fellowship award.
Her experience with prejudice, which she shared in an interview with 10daily, happened on May 18 after her car got a flat tire as she was driving from Brisbane to Melbourne.
The Harvard-educated doctor narrated that she was dropped off by a tow truck driver dropped at the closest motel. Upon checking online, the motel had a vacancy before 9:30 p.m.
Shortly after, she ended up having a 10-minute argument with the motel owner which she could only describe as “rough and aggressive” before she got kicked off the establishment.
“He asked me ‘are you a working girl? Is that how you can afford the room?’. At first, I didn’t know what he was referring to,” she was quoted as saying.
According to Han, she explained that she was meant to be staying in a hotel in Coffs Harbour but couldn’t get there because her car had a flat tire.
“He said ‘Your story sounds suspicious, we had a girl a few nights ago with a story like yours working out of her room and so we had to kick her out,'” she added.
“I then said, what do you mean? A prostitute?”
She explained that she was not a prostitute but a doctor and a former instructor at Harvard Medical School and offered her ID. She then proceeded to re-book a room online since the hotel booking website had credited her room in Coffs Harbour.
“The man became angrier, he said the fact that you are so selfish and inconsiderate in my reception area tells me you’ll be inconsiderate and selfish in the room. We are very selective about who we allow to stay,” she said.
Han claimed that the owner verbally abused her and forced her out onto the street.
In a later interview, the owner denied racially profiling Han but admitted to repeatedly asking her if she was a sex worker.
“After getting out of bed to let her in after our reception closed, I found her behavior rude and inconsiderate to book online and not directly with us, that’s all it was about.”
“Yes, I had a reasonable inquiry about her being a working girl, because why would a lady turn up so late by herself and not call ahead or the insurance company not call ahead?”
He further accused Han of “playing the race card.”
While Han said she reported the motel incident to the local police, it was later confirmed by the NSW Police that they were not investigating the incident since her race was never mentioned during the exchange, reports ABC.
After finding another motel in Grafton that night, Han proceeded to the train station the next morning so she could reach Coffs Harbour by train.
Little did she know that she would be mistaken for a prostitute for the second time in less than 24 hours.
“I was a little disoriented and a man, again Caucasian, offered to help me with directions and before leaving he said to me ‘are you a going to be a working girl in Coffs Harbour?'” she narrated.
“This has to be about my appearance and racial profiling because on both occasions our interactions were so short.”
While living in Melbourne in the weeks that followed, Han said she noticed otherwise polite men (all Caucasian and middle-aged) making other comments she describes as “showing implicit bias.”
“It’s overt discrimination. Someone asked me if I eat dogs and another person told me I speak English well,” she said.
“But people don’t seem to think racism exists in Australia.”
Han is hoping her story will help raise awareness and spark discussion about implicit bias.
“I want people to take something positive away from this. While it was all very upsetting for me, I want people to consider the impact their implicit bias can have on people,” she added.
Featured Image via YouTube / TEDx Talks