U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock D-Ga., told a group of college graduates over the weekend that they need to show the U.S. how to get out of what he called “COVID-1619,” according to a report.

Warnock made the comments during a commencement address Saturday at the Morehouse University School of Medicine in Atlanta. 

During his speech, Warnock claimed systemic racism was built into Americas health care system, the Daily Caller reported. He also compared the COVID-19 pandemic to claims made in The 1619 Project, a New York Times report about the impact of slavery on American history. 

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“May this be the class thats going to set new standards for how we deliver care people and reach people who have been traditionally marginalized and forgotten about in our health care system making sure everyone has great access to health care no matter what they look like, where they live, or how much money they have,” Warnock said, according to the Daily Caller. 

Raphael Warnock speaks to labor organizers and the media outside a labor union’s offices in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. January 5, 2021. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

(Reuters)

“May this be the class that is going to keep fighting to reverse and dismantle the disparities in our health care system born out of deeply rooted systemic racism. Go forth. Dont just teach us how to make our way out of COVID-19, teach us how to make our way out of COVID-1619,” he continued.

The 1619 Project refers to the year that the first 20 or so Africans arrived in the colony of Virginia, wrote Leslie M. Harris, a professor of history at Northwestern University, in a 2019 opinion piece published by Politico. It was a group believed to be the first enslaved Africans to arrive in British North America, Harris said. 

“And since that moment, we’ve been dealing as a country with this virus,” Warnock told NPR last year. 

The report was praised, while also drawing scrutiny over alleged inaccuracies. According to Harris, five academic historians signed a letter claiming The 1619 Project got several elements of history wrong, including a claim that the Revolutionary War was fought to preserve slavery. The historians demanded corrections.

Still, Harris noted she was worried critics would discredit the entire 1619 Project, which she called “a much-needed corrective to the blindly celebratory histories that once dominated our understanding of the past histories that wrongly suggested racism and slavery were not a central part of U.S. history.”

The letter also stated that: “We applaud all efforts to address the foundational centrality of slavery and racism to our history.”

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On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, gave an online commencement address for an Emory University graduation ceremony, saying the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. “shone a bright light on our own society’s failings” in how the virus impacted minority communities.

Fauci stated that “the undeniable effects of racism” have led to unacceptable health disparities that especially hurt African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans during the pandemic.

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called racism a “serious” threat to public health.

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Warnock graduated from Morehouse, a historically Black men’s liberal arts college, in 1991. He became the first African American senator from Georgia on Jan. 20 after winning a special election earlier in the month.