COLUMBUS— Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) President State Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) today issued a statement in response to state Senator Steven Huffman’s (R-Tipp City) question Tuesday about whether “colored” people get COVID-19 from not washing their hands as much.
Historically, the world “colored” is associated with segregation and Jim Crow laws and is almost universally considered offensive in 2020. Additionally, the unfounded idea that “Black people are dirty” has long been used as a racist stereotype in the United States to justify centuries of white superiority and Black oppression.
“When we talk about the internalized racism that is deeply ingrained in our institutions and the obstacles Black Americans face in ever achieving meaningful change, this is exactly what we are talking about,” Rep. Howse said. “The fact that a well-educated legislator, a Vice Chair of the Health Committee and a practicing medical doctor would, in a public setting, nonchalantly use such antiquated terminology paired with a hurtful, racist stereotype all in one breath reflects how unconscious this problem of racism is for too many.
Because he is not alone in the way he talks and the biases he holds. Black Ohioans have spent the last several days teaching lessons to people just like him about racism and trying to verbalize the pain we are feeling right now so others can better understand the Black experience. We are tired of these conversations, but we must not stop. Because only together can we finally recognize our societal shortcomings and strive to create a better world for the next generation.
This is why OLBC is calling upon the Senate and House legislators and staff to immediately take racial equity and implicit bias training. This training can help to identify racial biases within the General Assembly and make it easier for us as a legislature to recognize the racist policies already in state law and seek to level the playing field so all Ohioans can live the American Dream right here at home and Ohio can finally realize its true promise.”
Huffman’s question was asked during a Senate committee hearing to consider declaring racism a public health crisis. The House version of the resolution, HCR 31, has zero Republican sponsors and to date, has not received a single hearing.
In recent weeks, Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) has voiced frustration about the lack of action from Governor Mike DeWine’s Minority Health Strike Force to respond appropriately to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Ohio’s minority communities. She has echoed OLBC’s repeated calls to declare racism a public health crisis.
Editor’s note: Full video of Senator Huffman’s comments can be found here. The soundbite that is referenced in this release can be found around the 50:00 mark.