Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Wednesday that she had noticed a shift in the coronavirus narrative when the impact on the black community became clear.
Ocasio-Cortez, who made a remote appearance on ABC’s “The View,” claimed that warnings about risky behavior like smoking and drinking and an emphasis on personal responsibility came only after the highest risk group appeared to shift from the elderly to minority communities. (RELATED: Environmental Racism Is An ‘Underlying Health Condition’: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Wants Reparations For Coronavirus)
Host Sunny Hostin framed her question over comments made over the weekend by Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who addressed the fact that black people were more likely to face complications from coronavirus. (RELATED: Surgeon General Responds After PBS Reporter Accuses Him Of Using Racially Charged Language)
“Congresswoman, you know, the Surgeon General suggested last week that African-Americans and Latinos should step up and stop behaviors like drinking and smoking to help curve the spread of coronavirus in their communities, and I thought his comment reinforced the notion that personal responsibility is to blame for the racial health disparity rather than systemic racism,” Hostin began. “What did you make of that?”
“I completely agree. It’s — it’s so funny how this pandemic was — when it was impacting — when it was impacting the elderly, when it was impacting all sorts of people, we didn’t talk about personal responsibility,” Ocasio-Cortez replied. “We only started talking about, you know, taking personal responsibility over contracting coronavirus when we started talking about black Americans contracting it at a higher rate.”
Ocasio-Cortez went on to say that the real “pre-existing condition” with regard to the coronavirus pandemic is inequality from decades of systemic racism and policies that disproportionately impact minority communities.
“It’s the inequality that’s the pre-existing condition, and you can’t just go to someone and tell them, hey. You should have had health care this whole time when you’re working, you know, when you’re working an hourly job and your employer doesn’t give it to you,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “You know, a lot of these pre-existing conditions have to do with the inability to access quality health care, the inability to afford quality health care because we live in a country that continues to have a for-profit health care system unlike the rest of the developed world.”
Referencing Flint, Michigan, and her home in the Bronx, Ocasio-Cortez also argued that public policy had allowed the air and water in those communities to be “poisoned.”
“That is what is creating the large scale pre-existing conditions that are making our communities much more vulnerable than others,” she said. “And so while, yes, you know, if you are smoking, you should consider to stop, and that goes for everybody, at the end of the day, that’s not why there is such a high incidence of coronavirus that is impacting these communities disproportionately.”