A white Ohio Republican lawmaker who questioned whether members of “the colored population” were disproportionately contracting COVID-19 because of their lack of hygiene will now lead the state’s Senate Health Committee.
Ohio State Sen. Stephen Huffman received heavy criticism from Black lawmakers after his testimony at a committee hearing in June 2020, where he asked whether cleanliness played a role in the disproportionate number of Blacks contracting the coronavirus, according to The Associated Press.
Angela Dawson, Executive Director of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, had emphasized that minorities suffered Covid-19 disproportionately, which Huffman conceded. Then the latter asked
Could it just be that African Americans – or the colored population — do not wash their hands as well as other groups? Or wear masks? Or do not socially distance themselves? Could that just be the explanation of why there’s a higher incidence?
Dawson responded (as seen in the video below)
That is not the opinion of leading medical experts in this country. Do all populations need to wash their hands? Absolutely, sir, but that is not where you're going to find the variation and the rationale for why these populations are more vulnerable.
The controversy has been renewed recently as
Huffman, who was fired from his job as a Dayton-area emergency room physician for the comments, was appointed to chair the committee by his cousin, Senate President Matt Huffman, in Jan. 2021. His offensive comments pushed Democrats and the ACLU of Ohio to call him to resign from the Senate.
Of course, medical experts are not going to address differences in lifestyle between one group or another. They are not well-versed in the field of social science but in the field of natural science. That's why we call them medical experts.
Yet, Americans have been lectured endlessly the past 9-11 months to wash hands, wear masks, and practice social distancing- exactly the behavior Huffman was asked about. And if medical or social science authorities have examined- or even inquired about- differences in behavior among ethnic groups, it has been kept a secret from the American people.
As the correspondent explained in the video explained, the hearing in Ohio was called to consider "whether to declare racism a public health crisis." It may be that there is little difference between a) blacks and Latinos and b) non-Hispanic whites in the proclivity to wash hands, wear masks, or practice social distancing. But we don't know because, as Huffman found out, it's dangerous even to ask.
Darker skin pigmentation has been associated with lower serum vitamin D concentrations in a single-center, cross-sectional study.
This was presented at the 2017 American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting, from March 3 – 7.
Bridget Kaufman, MD, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, explained that vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that maintains skeletal health. Deficiency of vitamin D has been implicated in the development of numerous conditions, including diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and cancer.
The finding came about approximately 33 months before the first incidence of SARS-CoV-2 in mainland China, thus before it would be largely ignored in the interest of claiming that higher rates of a disease were due solely to racism.
Of course, it would not be racism but racial discrimination by businesses, corporations, or powerful individuals. Unfortunately, chiding you, me, and our neighbors for our attitudinal failures (racism) is more comforting to public officials and medical experts.
The conflict between Ohio Senate Republicans and Senator Huffman's critics may have a happy ending and not a cancellation. However, the episode is a reminder that some issues cannot be raised, unacceptable thoughts permitted, or uncomfortable questions voiced.