GOP Lawmaker Who Questioned Black People’s Hygiene Will Lead Health Panel

“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,” Ohio State Senator Stephen Huffman asked during a hearing on June 11 of last year. 

“Could that just be the explanation of why there’s a higher incidence?” 

Huffman, who directed his racist questions at a Black health expert, is now heading up the state’s Senate Health Committee, per TheGrio

Black lawmakers in the state are raising concerns and criticizing Huffman’s appointment to the role. 

“If the Senate leadership will not replace Sen. Huffman as Chair, then we will expect Sen. Huffman to use his position to improve the health of Ohio’s African American population by working with the OLBC to pass legislation that effectively addresses health disparities in the state of Ohio,” Ohio Black Legislative Caucus Director Tony Bishop wrote in a press release. 

Huffman’s comments drew immediate backlash at the time, with Democrats and the Ohio ACLU calling for his removal. 

Huffman’s cousin, Senate President Matt Huffman, made the appointment, even after Stephen lost his job at an emergency room in the Dayton area. 

Stephen Huffman still has his medical license. 

Spokesperson John Forntey said Huffman had apologized for his “clumsy and awkwardly worded question,” at the time, adding “Sincere apologies deserve sincere forgiveness, and not the perpetual politically weaponized judgement of the cancel culture.” 

The despicable stereotype of Black people being unclean or lacking hygiene perpetuated in Huffman’s statements are an indication of bias and extreme lack of knowledge on his part. In an October 2020 study, the CDC found that it was young, white men who are the least likely to wash their hands

Though Fortney believes that Huffman’s medical experience is enough to qualify him, the bias Huffman has demonstrated is what leads to inadequate, unequal medical treatment that Black people receive.  

Last month, the late Dr. Susan Mooredocumented her own experience of trying to get treatment for the coronavirus. Dr. Moore posted a series of videos to her Facebook page where she alleged her colleagues refused to give her medication, sending her home. She later died from the virus. 

Centuries of systemic racism, oppression, exploitation from medical professionals are all plausible causes for the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Black people, not poor hygiene. 

Photo: Getty Images 

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