Amid an Ohio House and Senate hearing on whether racism should be declared a public health crisis, one Italian Republican tried to center himself over his Black peers.
In a Facebook post, Rep. Nino Vitale from Urbana said that he was “darker” than most of the members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, according to Springfield News-Sun. His June 2 post was in response to the House resolution on racism, which is still pending. He posted a photo of the black Black Caucus members and commented, “I am darker than MOST of the people in this picture.”
This is a photo of Vitale:
This is a photo of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus:
Vitale went on to say that he was made fun of for his skin color and name when he was a kid. He also said he was beaten up, spit on, called a “greasy Italian,” and told he didn’t belong in the United States, according to his comment. When asked about his statements on Wednesday, Vitale said, “Do you have any idea about where I grew up or my past history? Look, their resolution is about black and brown people. I’m a brown person. I have a varied opinion on it. I don’t disagree that there are problems in our society. The question is how do we solve them.”
Stephanie Howse, the president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, didn’t approve of Vitale’s comments, saying the discussion on racism as a public health issue didn’t warrant Vitale’s post.
“I will let you know why he did it: It’s an undermining of notion that racism exists,” Howse said.
When House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, was asked about the post, he responded, “I’m not Rep. Vitale and obviously I’m not black so I really can’t tell you how that comment is taken.” He said that members of the OLBC talked with Vitale.
Vitale’s comments come after another incident involving the hearing made headlines.
According to Dayton Daily News, Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, questioned if “the colored population” is hit harder by the coronavirus because maybe they don’t wash their hands as frequently as other groups. Huffman, an emergency room physician, made his comments before the Senate Health Committee as he was questioning a witness on Tuesday.
“My point is I understand African Americans have a higher incidence of chronic conditions and it makes them more susceptible to death from COVID,” said Huffman. “But why it doesn’t make them more susceptible to just get COVID. Could it just be that African Americans or the colored population do not wash their hands as well as other groups or wear a mask or do not socially distance themselves? That could be the explanation of the higher incidence?”
Huffman’s comments were immediately slammed as racist with Howse explaining:
“He highlights what racism is from a systematic perspective. He’s a full legislator but beyond that, professionally, he’s a doctor. When we talk about the health disparities that happen because black folks aren’t believed when they’re actually hurt, they aren’t given the treatment that they need. Do you think that someone who acknowledges the ‘coloreds’ is going to give the love and care that people need when they come through those doors?”
According to The Washington Post, Huffman has since been fired from his emergency-room physician job because of his comments.