Red Table Talk Exclusive Clip: Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom, the 'Invisible Black Woman' Patient at the Doctor's Office

Jada Pinkett Smith and Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom on the Red Table Talk episode titled, “The Invisible Black Women Epidemic.”
Jada Pinkett Smith and Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom on the Red Table Talk episode titled, “The Invisible Black Women Epidemic.”
Screenshot: Courtesy of Red Table Talk/Facebook Watch

The concept of being an “invisible Black woman”—even with very visible pain—is a next-level cruelty that many Black women have long experienced in this society, unfortunately.


Here at The Root, we’ve reported on many examples of this dynamic in the healthcare industry, specifically—whether it’s the countless studies that show how Black women patients are neglected (and no, not even wealth and fame makes one an exception), to how this same neglect becomes especially relevant and dangerous during a modern global pandemic.

In the next episode of Red Table Talk, Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and Adrienne “Gammy” Banfield-Norris will discuss the many ways in which Black women (and our collective humanity) are neglected and ignored.

More about the upcoming episode, via the official press release sent to The Root:

“The Invisible Black Women Epidemic” | It’s a rarely talked about type of racism. Experts warn everyone is complicit. Meet a pregnant college professor who was treated like an “incompetent black woman” by her doctors, and a physician whose confrontation with a flight attendant went viral. Social justice leader Tamika Mallory reveals how the experience of feeling invisible led to her struggle with addiction. Plus Gammy shares the troubling way she was treated by doctors while pregnant with Jada.

In an exclusive clip obtained by The Root, writer, sociologist, professor, podcaster and MacArthur Genius Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom recounts the time she wasn’t taken seriously at the doctor’s office, despite clearly bleeding profusely in the waiting room.


“When I got pregnant, I wanted the very best for my baby,” Dr. Cottom recalled. “That’s why I chose the hospital uptown where the white women went to have their babies, with white doctors...thinking I would get better care—and I got anything but.”

“I was about four months pregnant when I started bleeding,” she continued. “My husband rushed me to the doctor’s office where I sat in the waiting room for about 30 minutes. The doctors [and] the nurses really ignored the crying, bleeding pregnant woman in the waiting room. I was in extreme pain. I never felt more invisible.”


Dr. Cottom had bled into the chair by the time a doctor finally saw her, but still, she faced further neglect when he “dismissed [her] concerns,” telling her that “spotting was normal, especially for someone as fat as [she] was.” Yes... she was quoting him directly. Ugh.

She was sent home, but the bleeding persisted so she returned to the hospital and was dismissed again. It wasn’t until Dr. Cottom had to “beg and plead” with the doctor to look further into it that she was finally given an ultrasound. What they found, as Dr. Cottom recounts, “was shocking.”


“The Invisible Black Women Epidemic” episode of Red Table Talk debuts May 13 on Facebook Watch at 3 p.m. ET / 12 p.m. PT.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.



Dr. Tressie McMillan-Cottom is a treasure.