Senator questions if ‘colored population’ not washing hands is behind COVID-19 disparity

The Republican lawmaker also pushed back against critiques about his work in the medical field

Republican Ohio State Senator Steve Huffman
Republican Ohio State Senator Steve Huffman (Facebook)

Republican Ohio Senator Steve Huffman had an interesting take on how racism and the coronavirus pandemic intersect.

He believes that a certain community’s hygiene may play a large part as to why Black people have been disproportionately impacted by the respiratory disease.

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“My point as I understand African Americans have a higher incidence of chronic conditions and it makes them more susceptible to death from COVID,” Huffman said in a public hearing.

“But why it doesn’t make them more susceptible to just get COVID. 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?”

In addition to his role as a state senator, Huffman is also an emergency room physician, a point that was also mentioned during the hearing.

According to the Dayton Daily News, the audience cringed upon hearing the remark.

Stephanie Howse, the president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus said, “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.”

COLUMBUS, USA – MAY 30 : Protesters rally outside the state house on the fourth straight day of protests against the death of an unarmed black man who was killed as he was pinned down by a white Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer in Columbus, Ohio, United States on May 30, 2020. (Photo by Megan Jelinger/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Howse continued, “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?”

Fellow state senator Cecil Thomas (D) said that Huffman is an example of why discussions on racism need to happen.

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In an interview with The Washington Post, Huffman defended his remarks saying he thought the phrases “people of color” and “colored population” were interchangeable. He also stated that the question was “rhetorical.”

The Republican lawmaker also pushed back against critiques about his work in the medical field, which regularly demonstrates race-based disparities.

“Anybody that comes into any emergency room, I give them the very best care regardless of what race they are,” he said.

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