An Ohio state senator is accused of showcasing systemic racism in a hearing to determine whether racism should be declared a public health crisis. State GOP Sen. Steve Huffman, an emergency room doctor on the Senate Health Committee, was questioning Ohio Commission on Minority Health chief Angela Dawson on Tuesday when he asked why black people were harder hit by COVID-19 than white people, per the Washington Post. "I understand African Americans have a higher incidence of chronic conditions and it makes them more susceptible to death from COVID," the white senator told the black witness before pondering why the group is more likely to contract the virus. "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?"
Dawson responded to Huffman, saying that was "not the opinion of leading medical experts." The audience also cringed at the remark, State Sen. Cecil Thomas, a Democrat on the committee, tells the Dayton Daily News: "He's an example of why we have to have this discussion about racism and how it impacts people." Rep. Stephanie Howse, the Democratic president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, agrees, noting African Americans don't receive adequate care in hospitals. "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?" Huffman now tells the Post that his remark was "taken out of context." "Anybody that comes into any emergency room, I give them the very best care regardless of what race they are," he adds. (Read more racism stories.)