June 12, 2020

Whenever you start a question with 'colored population' you should know it probably isn't going to end well for you, and this time it didn't for a state senator from Ohio, Steve Huffman. The Washington Post reported that he's been fired from his ER job (yeah, he's a doctor).

Source: Dayton Daily News

COLUMBUS — During a hearing on whether to declare racism a public health crisis, state Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, asked if “the colored population” is hit harder by the coronavirus because perhaps they don’t wash their hands as well as other groups.

Huffman, an emergency room physician, asked a witness before the Senate Health Committee on Tuesday why COVID-19 is hitting African Americans harder than white people.

“My point is I understand African Americans have a higher incidence of chronic conditions and it makes them more susceptible to death from COVID. 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?” he said.Ohio Commission on Minority Health Director Angela Dawson responded to Huffman: “That is not the opinion of leading medical experts in this country.” COVID-19 impacts the respiratory system so those with chronic conditions are more vulnerable, she said. Ohio Legislative Black Caucus President Stephanie Howse, D-Cleveland, said Huffman’s word choice and question represent systemic racism.

And here's his statement to The Washington Post, defending his question.

On Thursday, Huffman was fired from his emergency-room physician job for the comments.

“Dr. Huffman’s comments are wholly inconsistent with our values and commitment to creating a tolerant and diverse workplace,” McHenry Lee, a spokesman for TeamHealth, said in a statement to The Washington Post. “TeamHealth has terminated Dr. Huffman’s employment.”

Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland), the president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, who was present at the hearing, told the Dayton Daily News that Huffman’s word choice and question “highlights what racism is from a systematic perspective.”

“He’s a full legislator, but beyond that, professionally, he’s a doctor,” she said. “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. 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?”

In a phone interview with The Washington Post late Wednesday, Huffman defended himself, insisting that his language was not intended to be derogatory. Huffman added that he thought the phrases “people of color” and “colored population” were similar.

Here's Ohio State Rep. and head of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Stephanie Howse's reaction.

And here are his full remarks, in context. Audio is kind of lousy.

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