Jun 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

U.S. surgeon general on George Floyd: "That could have been me"

Jerome Adams

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams reflected on the death of George Floyd on Politico's "Pulse Check" podcast Wednesday, noting the similarities between himself and the 46-year-old black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer last month.

What they're saying: "That could be me, pulled over for speeding five miles over the speed limit. That could be me with a busted tail light," Adams said. "That could be me who is just seen as a black man and not as the surgeon general of the United States."

  • "Especially if I'm not wearing a uniform, but I'm casually dressed in my hoodie and tennis shoes and athletic apparel — and that could be me on the side of a road with a knee in my neck," he added.

Why it matters: Adams, the nation's top doctor since 2017, is one of the most prominent African American officials serving in the Trump administration. Yet the surgeon general still says he's been racially profiled throughout his life and detained on several occasions by police and security guards on false accusations.

  • "I think really it’s why you have so many people angry and frustrated, because they saw that. They saw that," Adams said.
  • "And they didn't see George Floyd alone. They saw themselves. They saw their faces there with that knee on their necks."

The big picture: Adams, who serves on the White House coronavirus task force, said he understands why protestors are circumventing public health guidance and gathering en masse to call for police reform. He urged Americans to take precautions like wearing masks and using hand sanitizer.

  • "I understand the anger, the frustration, the fear and why people feel that that they need to prioritize going out and protesting," he said.
  • "What I say to people as a physician is, if you're going to do something, I want to help you understand your risk and ... how to do it as safely as possible."
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