Dan Patrick on Fox News August 19. (Image: Fox News.)

The Racism of Dan Patrick Blaming Black People and Democrats for COVID-19 Surges in Texas

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Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s lap dog and Keebler Elf, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, went on Fox News to blame unvaccinated Black people for the recent COVID-19 surge. If Patrick sounds familiar, he is the same man that got on Tucker Carlson’s show the first month of the pandemic and said our elders would sacrifice themselves for the economy. Sure, Dan.

This latest attempt to remove accountability from the state’s Republican leadership (a.k.a. all of the highest government positions in Texas) occurred on Fox News Thursday, August 19.

The first thing Patrick does when asked specifically about his state is deflect to the wider U.S. by blaming Black American vaccination rates and hesitancy. Yes, vaccine hesitancy is an issue in a community in which many inherited a fear of the medical establishment. This was passed down because of our history of being experimented on for science, from slavery experimentation to the 40-year Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (into the ’70s)—a history that still is visible today in the forms of a difference in treatment based on race and an understandable mistrust of medical professionals.

Even with these issues, there are more white people than Black people unvaccinated in Texas, and likely in the overall U.S. For every unvaccinated Black Texan, there are 3 unvaccinated white Texans. This is even accounting for the fact that white neighborhoods are getting more than their share of vaccine shipments and the vaccine trips some wealthy white people took into neighborhoods of Black and brown folks when the rollout began. Patrick ignores all of this as he tries to reframe the conversation.

Next, he points to the fact that most Black voters elect Democrats in (our) major cities and counties. Then, he follows up with the assertion that it’s up to Democrats to get people vaccinated, before adjusting to a “just as it’s up to Republicans.” Instead of taking responsibility, he attempts to make the narrative that Black people did it to themselves by voting for Democrats who aren’t taking care of them? As the second highest elected state official, it is his job to make sure as many people as possible are vaccinated.

For those that are blessed to not be under the jurisdiction of the posturing posse that is Patrick, Abbott, and A.G. Paxton, understand that this is just the latest attempt to deflect blame for the rising infections and death tolls. Since the pandemic began, they have been after high profile leaders in mostly Democrat-run cities/counties for attempting to place and enforce safe measures. This includes, but is not limited to, mask mandates of any sort, limiting business capacities, vaccine requirements, and vaccine drives. Every 3–4 days, there is news that a city, county, or school district is fighting these three in court or writing in loopholes to skirt their incompetency and deadly public health policies.

Also, by pointing to Democrats tending to lead major metropolitan areas where COVID-19 spreads, Patrick shows that he is still not aware (or pretends not to be) of what population density is. This is the same logic that had misguided people to attack 5G towers a year ago. The only person other than Patrick and his party that can be blamed for the uptick in numbers are the people that voted for them. Broken down by party lines, COVID-19 vaccination lags the most among Republicans, and that is a problem for everyone not just them.

This pivot to blaming the Black community is not the first time he and his ghastly gang have pointed the finger at a marginalized group of people. Immigrants fleeing violence and instability at the Texas/Mexico border have been the main place they have point the blame at—when Republican leadership even acknowledges that COVID-19 is a serious problem, that is.

In addition to the usual racist dog whistles, Abbott signed an executive order (EO) allowing DPS agents to racially profile Texans that look like immigrants and, if they can’t immediately prove otherwise, deport them. Like most immigration bills, they aren’t going to be stopping people with French or British accents, I am sure.

The EO expands upon the Title 42 rule place at the start of the pandemic by the Trump Administration and upheld by the Biden Administration. Currently being challenged by the ACLU in the court system, the order shuts out most people seeking asylum in the U.S. The Biden Administration, claiming that this is a public health measure as opposed to politics, tries to minimize the decades of racist rhetoric that immigrants are “dirty” and “unclean.”

This language made way for toxic baths required at the border during the 1910s flu epidemic. These measures and facilities in the Lone-Star State inspired the gas chambers used by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

There was talk of sending the surplus of vaccines (before they go bad) to the border for those in the “migrant detention centers” (yes, those didn’t go away with Trump). These vaccines could be administered to asylum-seekers, thus increasing the chance of herd immunity in the communities they will be sent to. Instead, Democratic leadership at the national level choose to act like Diet Republicans when it comes to immigrants and COVID-19.

The next morning, Patrick responded to the criticism and reporting by major Texas outlets like the Houston Chronicle and Texas Tribune. In a scheduled notes-app style address (but not apology), the lieutenant governor refused to see the error of his ways and said that “Democrat social media trolls were up late misstating the facts and fanning the flames of their lies.”

While knowing the breakdown by race/ethnicity has its many pros, I also do not like politicians talking about one group over another—especially in Texas, where their is a very different (30% difference) between who is and isn’t white depending on if we are talking about race or ethnicity. That nuance is going to be lost in these party politics conversations, resulting in a worsening of the public messaging. Elected leaders need to be uplifting in-group medical professionals and community leaders instead of blaming groups they aren’t part of.

By this week, most pubic schools and colleges are in session in-person and cannot legally require masks or vaccines on campus. Tennessee and Florida have been garnering a lot of the attention, but it is really bad here, too. While the low vaccine rates and refusal to comply with safety precautions are not solely caused by the terrible trio, they are certainly making it harder at every turn.

(via Twitter, feature: Fox News)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.