New York – Speaker Corey Johnson and the New York City Council Women’s Caucus are joining with women from across the city in demanding an apology from SBA President Ed Mullins for his use of derogatory and misogynistic language in referring to Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. The use of such language is offensive, inappropriate, and demeaning, and its implications are serious. The dynamics of this interaction can set a dangerous precedent of harassment for Black and brown women.
We are all public servants, and as such, we expect better decorum and civility from the President of a police union as we continue efforts to combat the current COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Barbot, a Latina woman, has been on the front lines leading the DOHMH during an unprecedented, traumatic time in New York City’s public health history. Her position as a leader is unprecedented, but her work on the front lines mirrors the experience of women across the country. According to census data, one in three jobs held by women have been deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, and women of color are more likely to be doing this essential work than any other demographic.
Additionally, Black and Latinx communities are grappling with the disparate devastation the novel coronavirus has caused. It is imperative that the city works to sow trust between these vulnerable groups and public health entities in order to get the virus tracked and under control. During this unprecedented crisis, when public health efforts will require immense levels of trust from communities across New York City, it is imperative that the medical leaders advising the Mayor are representative of women of color across the five boroughs.
On Monday, Dr. Barbot publicly apologized for her words during a private conversation in March with Chief Of Department Terence Monahan. When we misspeak, we correct ourselves and she did just that. We have yet to see SBA President Ed Mullins follow suit.
We have a responsibility to show solidarity with Dr. Barbot. If we cannot ensure that women in the highest levels of city government will be able to do their jobs without experiencing misogynistic attacks from peers, how can we support any woman facing workplace harassment?
As a city that prides itself on progressivism, we cannot allow these types of interactions to become the norm, and we ask that other women join with us in denouncing this attack on Dr. Barbot.