On June 4, a lawmaker from Ohio was fired from his position as an emergency room doctor after he received major backlash by asking whether "colored people" are more susceptible to COVID-19 because they do not wash their hands as well as other groups.
A Republican from the town of Tipp City, Ohio, State Sen. Steve Huffman, asked the racist question during a hearing on June 9.
The committee discussed whether to declare racism as a public health crisis in the state because thousands are marching outside to join the Black Lives Matter movement.
State Sen. Huffman asked the head of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, Angela Dawson. Dawson is a black woman. Huffman said that data shows African Americans have a higher incidence of chronic conditions and it also makes them more susceptible to death from coronavirus.
Huffman asked if the reason why African Americans are more susceptible to COVID-19 is that they do not wash their hands properly, don't wear a mask, and do not practice social distancing.
Dawson took offense to his question and said that Huffman's opinion is not the opinion of leading medical experts in the country. She added that all populations need to wash their hands but it is not the reason why the colored population of the country is more susceptible to get the virus.
Democratic State Sen. Tavia Galonski, who is also a black woman, said during her interview with NBC News that she was shocked by Huffman's question and that for her, it was a dog whistle. It was Huffman's way of showing that he is against racism but at the same time, assuring racists that he is still with them.
Galonski also took offense to the question as it implies that the black community is dirtier than any other group and that the spike in COVID-19 cases in the country is being blamed on African Americans.
Galonksi also said that she was surprised that Huffman used the word "colored", a word that is frowned upon by the black community as it was a word to describe them in the 1940s to 1960s when the white population was segregated from the black population.
John Fortney, Huffman's press secretary, released a statement that said he regrets asking the question. He did not know that it would hurt the African American community and he was only trying to focus on why COVID-19 affects the people of color at a higher rate.
On June 10, Huffman did a brief interview with The Washington Post and he said that his question was not mean to insult anyone. He just wanted to know why the African American community has a higher number of coronavirus cases.
After the controversial interview, a Tennessee-based company named TeamHealth, which operates hospitals and health care facilities in Ohio, fired Huffman. The company said in a statement that they are committed to creating a diverse and tolerant workspace and Huffman's comments are not consistent with their values.
The African American has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and data shows the community has higher rates of deaths. However, medical experts also stated that the African American community has higher rates of poverty and only a few have medical insurance.
Related Article: Fact Check: Is the COVID-19 Pandemic a False Alarm?