An Ohio state senator sparked outrage after asking a black health expert if “the colored population” gets hit harder by the coronavirus because they “do not wash their hands as well.”
Sen. Stephen Huffman — who is also a doctor — shocked the state Senate Health Committee, ironically during a debate over whether racism was a public health crisis.
“Could it just be that African Americans — the colored population — do not wash their hands as well as other groups?” Huffman asked Angela Dawson, the director of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, about disparities among those most at risk from the contagion.
He then suggested they may fail to wear masks or “socially distance themselves” as much as other communities, according to video shared by the Columbus Dispatch.
“Could that just be maybe the explanation of why there’s a higher incidence?” he asked.
After a pause, Dawson — who is black — replied, “That is not the opinion of leading medical experts in this country.”
Rep. Stephanie Howse, president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, accused him of suggesting that African Americans are dirty.
“He highlights what racism is from a systematic perspective,” she told the paper, noting Huffman is a “full legislator” as well as a doctor.
“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?” said asked.
Democratic state Sen. Cecil Thomas told the paper that the audience cringed when his colleague made the remark to the Senate Health Committee.
“He’s an example of why we have to have this discussion about racism and how it impacts people.”
Huffman told the Columbus Dispatch it was all down to a poor choice of words, with no malice intended.
“I was trying to focus on why COVID-19 affects people of color at a higher rate since we really do not know all the reasons.”