Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, has been on a mission to curb COVID-19 deaths in Black and Latino communities, where infections and deaths are occurring at alarming rates. He even spoke to BET.com exclusively about the specific struggles Black people face when it comes to dealing with the virus. On Friday (April 10), however, he used an unfortunate choice of words to get his points across, and is facing backlash from the public as a result.
During a press conference in which he spoke about how coronavirus is disproportionately affecting Black and Latino communities, he urged members of those communities to refrain from alcohol, drug and tobacco use, and to adhere to federal shelter-in-place guidelines. “We need you to do this, if not for yourself, then for your abuela. Do it for your granddaddy. Do it for your big mama. Do it for your pop pop,” Adams said.
PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor later questioned Adams about his choice of words. “There are some people online who are already offended by that language and the idea that behaviors may be leading to these high death rates. Could you, I guess, have a response to those who might be offended by the language you used?” Alcindor asked.
Adams replied by saying he used language he uses with his own family.
“We need targeted outreach to the African American community and I use the language that is used in my family,” he said. “I have a Puerto Rican brother-in-law. I call my granddaddy, ‘granddaddy’. I have relatives who call their grandparents ‘big mama’. So, that was not meant to be offensive.”