Posted on April 14, 2020

Black PBS Newshour Reporter Questions Surgeon General’s “Big Mama” Remark

Antonio Ray Harvey, The Sacramento Observer, April 13, 2020

“Don’t wash your dirty laundry in the street,” goes the centuries-old African-American adage. The saying is a warning to Black people: Don’t get into spats with other Black people about racial differences while “in mixed company.” That’s code for White people.

But at a White House Coronavirus Task Force press conference last week things got a little heated. An exchange between a Black Journalist and the country’s African-American Surgeon General went there — touching on African-American culture and racial stereotypes in a very public way. Big Mama may not have approved.

At the briefing held to update Americans about the global Coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, who is African American, probably didn’t think he would set off a controversy when he said people of color should avoid drugs, tobacco and alcohol as a safety precaution against the coronavirus.

“We need you to do this, if not for yourself, then do it for your Abuela. Do it for your Grandaddy. Do it for your Big Mama. Do it for your Pop Pop,” said America’s top doctor, who is tasked with advancing the health of Americans, to journalists gathered at the White House.

Moments later, Yamiche Léone Alcindor, a Black White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour, fired a pointed question at Adams. {snip}

“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,” Alcindor told Adams.

Adams apologized, but he said that he used language he uses around his family.