A Milwaukee children’s doctor is out of a job this week after allegedly asking a Black colleague if she wanted to be lynched.
The alleged incident unfolded during an employee seminar at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin on June 12, during which a staffer said she was asked to raise her hand as part of a team-building exercise.
“I did not raise my hand because I didn’t need any help,” victim Siara Robinson, 23, told local station WISN 12 News. “[The doctor] then proceeded to say in order for all of us to get help, we all have to raise our hand. And before I could ever raise my hand, that’s when the doctor said, ‘Do you want to get lynched?’ “
“At this time I’m just, I looked over to her, and I was like, ‘Did she really just say this in a room full of people?’ “ she continued.
The hospital has declined to name the doctor in question but confirmed that “the individual involved in this situation is no longer employed by Children’s hospital.” The Original Black Panthers of Milwaukee, who was contacted by the victim, outed the former staffer as Dr. Lori Wiorek, however. The group confronted hospital security and rallied on the young woman’s behalf.
A hospital spokesperson confirmed an investigation into the incident is underway, but local activists have pressed the hospital to also reach out to Robinson.
“Our community was lynched back in slavery days and after that,” Black Panther leader King Rick told the station. “We’re angry and appalled and upset that this doctor would even use that word. Children’s Hospital needs to reach out to this employee to make sure she’s okay, that she feels safe or if she needs some counseling.”
“This is something that’ll scare anyone,” Rick added.
After the incident, Robinson said she felt “threatened” and took her complaints to HR, explaining how uncomfortable the word “lynch” made her feel as a Black woman coming from a white woman.
“It means to hand and kill African-Americans,” she said.
Wiorek has since penned an apology letter to Robinson, claiming that where she comes from, the phrase is used in jest as another way to say “ganging up” on someone, FOX 6 News reported. The doctor called her statement an “ignorant mistake.”
“I’d like to apologize to you for the word I used,” the letter read. “I wasn’t even aware that I had said it until it was brought to my attention. I know it doesn’t make it right, but there was no harmful, racial intent behind the word. It was truly ignorance.”
The incident comes just as Children’s Hospital was ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.