Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Went on Fox News to Blame the COVID Surge on Black People

Meanwhile, communities of color—in Texas and beyond—continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic.

Fox News

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On Thursday night, as the Texas Supreme Court rebuked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on school mask mandates and Texas’ education agency temporarily backed off enforcing it, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick fled to the safe space of Fox News to blame the whole thing on—who else?!—Black people. 

“The Democrats like to blame Republicans” for the spread of the virus, Patrick told Fox’s Laura Ingraham. “Well, the biggest group in most states are African Americans who have not been vaccinated. The last time I checked, over 90 percent of them voted for Democrats…They’re doing nothing for the African American community that has a significant high number of unvaccinated people, so they need to address that.” 

 

As The Atlantic‘s Adam Serwer points out, Patrick doesn’t seem to think that Republicans bear responsibility for combating the COVID surge and encouraging Black Americans in Texas, and elsewhere, to get vaccinated. But in GOP-led states like Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas, and Texas, lax efforts to curtail the virus’s spread and low vaccination rates have led to an uptick in cases, resulting in overburdened hospitals filled with younger patients.

Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services shows that white Texans, who make up 41 percent of the state’s residents and 38 percent of those fully vaccinated, account for roughly 32 percent of infections and 42 percent of deaths. Meanwhile, state data shows that Black and Latinx Texans are disproportionately afflicted by COVID: Black residents account for 12 percent of the state’s population but 16 percent of infections; Latinx residents account for 40 percent of residents but 46 percent of deaths. That data reinforces the fact that these communities of color continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic, as has been the case for a year and a half. 

But Patrick doesn’t see the toll the pandemic has had on Black and Latinx residents. When he goes on Fox News and says that Republicans “respect the fact that if people don’t want to get the vaccination, we’re not going to force it on them. That’s their individual right,” he’s ignoring the fact that individualism only makes it more difficult to overcome a pandemic that affects everyone. Instead, Patrick concocts a familiar racist narrative: that irresponsible Black Democrats are to blame. In doing so, he disregards the well-documented factors that just might explain why just 8 percent of Black residents and 32 percent of Latinx residents are fully vaccinated.

As I’ve previously reported, the social conditions that Black and Latinx residents find themselves in—their ability to get medical care, their working conditions as essential workers, their housing situations, among others—all influence their access to and attitudes toward vaccination. But Patrick doesn’t want to talk about the legacies of structural racism or the understandable mistrust that communities of color have for the US medical establishment.

As former Stanford University School of Medicine instructor Jorge Cabellero pointed out on Twitter, the number of unvaccinated white residents continues to far outpace the number of unvaccinated Black residents—a fact that Patrick conveniently neglects to acknowledge. Guess that’s just their individual right. 

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