GOP lawmaker scolds colleague for acknowledging racism still exists


Virginia Del. Barry Knight said he agreed with 'heightened awareness on ladies and pregnancy and all this' but claimed language citing racial disparities in health issues was hurtful.

A Virginia lawmaker on Friday tried to remove a line from a resolution that acknowledged the harm that "structural racism" still does to maternal health, claiming the language was outdated and hurtful.

The comments were first reported by the progressive site Blue Virginia.

The provision in question was part of HJ 111, a resolution to designate July as "Maternal Health Awareness Month."

It stated that "considerable racial disparities in pregnancy-related mortality exist, with deaths per live birth for black women nearly three times higher than such deaths for white women," and that the "root cause of these disparities is longstanding structural racism, which has contributed to poorer health outcomes among communities of color."

Virginia Del. Barry Knight (R) claimed at a House of Delegates Rules Committee hearing that it "may have been the case in the past" that structural racism was a root cause of maternal health disparities, but that this was no longer the case.

Knight then suggested that adding in language acknowledging racism's role in those issues was intentionally hurtful.

"I agree with heightened awareness on ladies and pregnancy and all this," Knight told the proposal's sponsor, Del. Cia Price (D). "But you know sometimes it looks to me like you're trying to stick a knife in there and twist it a little bit sometimes."

He added, "We're talking about ladies that are having babies from this point forward. I just think that this doesn't do your resolution any good."

Knight's proposal to amend out the language eventually failed on a 5 to 13 vote.

Knight, a hog farmer serving in his sixth-term in the state Legislature, ran on a promise of keeping "Washington style politics out of Richmond," but has mostly taken far-right positions.

Last month, he proposed a ban on the use of terms like "almond milk," "soy milk," "coconut milk," and "oat milk," claiming that milk can only come from "healthy hooved animals." He has also opposed gun safety regulations, LGBTQ rights, and the right of localities to move Confederate monuments.

Contrary to Knight's assertion that racial disparities are a thing of the past, a September report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) titled "Racial and Ethnic Disparities Continue in Pregnancy-Related Deaths" found the exact opposite.

"Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women — and this disparity increases with age," the researchers found.

Their recommendations included efforts to find and address implicit bias in healthcare and to implement standardized quality improvement efforts.

Knight's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.