Dr. Jerome Adams Says His Comments About Blacks, Latinos Were 'Not Meant To Be Offensive'

WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES - MARCH 09, 2020: Dr. Jerome Adams, Surgeon General of the United States speaks at the Coronavirus Task Force Press Conference.

Dr. Jerome Adams Says His Comments About Blacks, Latinos Were 'Not Meant To Be Offensive'

The U.S. Surgeon General faced backlash over his choice of words.

Published April 10th

Written by BET Staff

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."

He continued, "That is the language we use, and that I use, and we need to continue to target our outreach to those communities. It is critically important that they understand it's not just about them. We need to do our part at the federal level, we need people to do their parts at the state level. And we need everyone, black, brown, white, whatever color you are, to follow the president's coronavirus guidelines."

Alcindor then asked if Adams would recommend that all Americans — not just Blacks and Latinos — avoid behaviors such as smoking and drinking that would put them at risk for infection.

Adams responded, "Absolutely."

Indeed, many on social media took offense to Adams' use of colloquialisms when referring to Black and Latino people, and others didn't appreciate his comment that people of color need to "step up" their response to coronavirus:

Photo: James Byard / EyeEm


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