One of the many effects of the George Floyd protests is the self-outing of racists. For some reason, countrywide unrest coupled with the current prominence of race in our national discourse is prompting people to voice vile opinions that they may have otherwise kept to themselves. Disturbingly, many of the people emboldened to flaunt their bigotry are people in positions of power.
The Dayton Daily News reports that Republican State Senator Steve Huffman of Ohio suggested at a public health hearing on Tuesday that more Black Americans are contracting COVID-19 because they have poorer hygiene than other races.
“My point is I understand African Americans have a higher incidence of chronic conditions and it makes them more susceptible to death from COVID. But why doesn’t it make them more susceptible to just get COVID?” said Huffman, winding up his racist pitch.
“Could it just be that African Americans or the colored population do not wash their hands as well as other groups or wear a mask or do not socially distance themselves? That could be the explanation of the higher incidence?” he asked.
Angela Dawson, Director of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, quickly shut him down, telling him that his theory is “not the opinion of leading medical experts in this country” and that COVID-19 is more damaging to those with underlying health conditions.
The CDC has found that the novel coronavirus pandemic is disproportionately affecting people of color, a tragic phenomenon rooted in the fact that systemic injustices have long afforded white people better access to medicine and wealth. As a result, Black communities are often subjected to worse pollution and other factors which in turn makes them more demographically prone to illnesses and preexisting conditions. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it exacerbated these underlying problems.
For Huffman to imply that higher coronavirus infection rates among Black people is somehow their fault for not taking proper precautions is not only staggeringly racist but a gross dereliction of duty on the part of an elected official. Men like him are the reason why these problems persist.
“He highlights what racism is from a systematic perspective,” said Stephanie Howse (D), the President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus. “He’s a full legislator but beyond that, professionally, he’s a doctor. When we talk about the health disparities that happen because black folks aren’t believed when they’re actually hurt, they aren’t given the treatment that they need. Do you think that someone who acknowledges the ‘coloreds’ is going to give the love and care that people need when they come through those doors?”
State Representative Erica Crawley (D) blasted Huffman’s comments on Twitter.
Clearly, the people of Ohio need to give some serious thought to Huffman’s comments, not about their validity, but if they want a man who would say such a thing representing them in government. One would hope they vote him out as soon as possible.
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Updated 08/15/22: Changed link regarding CDC’s impact statement after the original link was removed by the CDC.
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