U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams raised a few eyebrows on Friday when he said Black Americans specifically should stop drinking and smoking to help reduce the death toll from the coronavirus. Yet, just days ago Adams said that behavior was not the main reason why Black communities were suffering more than others from COVID-19.

He then caused further outrage with a cringeworthy attempt at appealing to Black people.

Adams, who is Black himself, said Black and Latino people should "avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs."

"We need you to step up. Do it for your abuela, do it for your grandaddy, do it for your Big Mama, do it for your pop pop," Adams said.


The statement was immediately questioned by PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.

Adams told Alcindor he didn't mean to offend anyone with his comment and was only using language he heard in his own household. He said the government needed "targeted outreach" to appeal to Black people.

"We need to continue to target our outreach to those communities. It is critically important that they understand it's not just about them. It's not just about what you do, but you also are not helpless," Adams said.

Alcindor pressed him again on the issue, asking whether all Americans needed to avoid alcohol and tobacco. He went on to say that it was not just Black people who needed to stay away from those substances.

The tone-deaf line almost immediately prompted thousands of jokes online from many who said they've never called their Black mothers "Big Mama" or their fathers "Pop Pop."

One Twitter user even noted that Trump himself gawked a bit when he heard the line.

Adams' remarks further underscored the Trump administration's lackluster, and at times clownish, response to a pandemic that is taking more and more Black lives as each day passes.

People online noted that the surgeon general's suggestion that Black people alone should stop smoking and drinking is part of a larger effort to shift blame for the high death toll onto Black communities. Decades of evidenced environmental racism, healthcare exclusion and purposefully created food deserts have led to many of the preexisting conditions causing Black people to die from the coronavirus. 

Earlier this week, Adams himself said these conditions were the root cause of the high death rate and were not the fault of Black people. 

Over the past week, data from across the country has shown that systemic health issues in Black communities were increasingly causing skyrocketing death tolls in New York, Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Detroit. as Blavity previously reported

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