While former President Obama was heralded for his “sincere” outreach efforts, Trump administration Surgeon General Jerome Adams has been smeared as an “Uncle Tom.”
Every single time that Obama urged black Americans to assist him in his “get out the vote” efforts, he evoked culturally-specific caricatures like “Cousin Pookie” and “Ray Ray” to better connect with his audience.
It happened in 2008, in 2010, in 2012, in 2014 and even in 2016. And in every instance, the media cheered his words.
“Works every time,” The Washington Post once wrote praisingly of Obama’s “get out the vote” efforts a day after the then-president had evoked “Pookie” again at a campaign rally in Chicago.
But when Surgeon General Adams used similar language during a coronavirus task force briefing this week, the media pounced.
Speaking this Friday about the coronavirus’s disproportionate effect on minority communities, the surgeon general cited caricatures such as “big mama” and “pop pop” to highlight the importance of washing one’s hands, maintaining social distancing, etc.
“Stay at home if possible,” he said. “If you must go out, maintain six feet of distance between you and everyone else and wear a mask if you’re going to be within six feet of others. Wash your hands more often than you ever dreamed possible. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs and call your friends and family, check in on your mother. She wants to hear from you right now.”
“And speaking of mothers, 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. We need you to understand, especially in communities of color, we need you to step up and help stop the spread so that we can protect those who are most vulnerable.”
Adams has faced the exact opposite reaction from the media. It started during the presser itself, with PBS White House correspondent, frequent MSNBC contributor, Yamiche Alcindor accusing him of having offended people.
“You said that African Americans and Latinos should avoid alcohol, drugs and tobacco,” she complained, ignoring the fact that Adams’ guidance had covered a wide variety of behaviors, from hand-washing to drug consumption.
“You also said do it for your Abuela and do it for big mama and pop pop. There are some people online that are already offended by that language. And the idea that you’re saying behaviors might be leading to these high death rates. Could you talk about whether or not people… Could you, I guess have a response for people who might be offended by the language that you used?”
Adams responded by explaining how he’s been working with the NAACP to reach out to the black community amid the pandemic and pointing out that he has relatives who call their own grandparents “big mama.” After all, Adams is himself black.
Yet Alcindor doubled down on her criticism with a poston social media after the briefing, provoking critics into asking why she’d never posed the same question to Obama.
But the saddest part of this debacle is the hatred that’s now being directed at Adams by the media’s blind followers. Despite him being a decorated vice admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, he’ll forever be known to them as just an “Uncle Tom.”