Surgeon General Jerome Adams shared an emotional response to the death of George Floyd during a podcast aired by Politico on Thursday.
After acknowledging that the 46-year-old Floyd was “the same age that I am,” Adams said that he really thinks “that could have been me” while reflecting on the death of the unarmed black man. Floyd’s death sparked protests nationwide after video footage of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee on his neck for more than eight minutes went viral.
Adams told Politico that he empathizes with Floyd due to his experience dealing with racial profiling by being repeatedly detained by police and security guards in public spaces.
“That could be me, pulled over for speeding five miles over the speed limit. That could be me with a busted tail light,” Adams told Politico. “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.”
Adams added that the shared empathy among the black community is why there are many of them participating in protests in the wake of Floyd’s death.
“I think really it’s why you have so many people angry and frustrated, because they saw that. They saw that,” Adams told Politico. “And they didn’t see George Floyd alone. They saw themselves. They saw their faces there with that knee on their necks.”
Adams then said that he understands why people are risking their health amid the COVID-19 pandemic by spilling onto the streets to protest in the wake of Floyd’s death, saying that “we need a lot of work” to reform police departments.
“I understand the anger, the frustration, the fear and why people feel that that they need to prioritize going out and protesting,” Adams told Politico, while also urging the public to continue wearing masks, use hand sanitizer and other precautions to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“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,” Adams told Politico.