On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr absurdly compared stay-at-home orders and other measures instituted by local officials to curb the spread of coronavirus to slavery, the centuries-long policy of anti-Black murder, rape and theft.
During a speech at the private, conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan on Wednesday, Barr misled listeners about the steps health officials have actually taken to curb the virus, electing instead to compare their actions to violent slave drivers.
“You know, putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders, is like house arrest,” the attorney general said. “Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,” he said.
To be clear, there has been no national lockdown, although numerous health officials across the U.S. warned that instituting one in the early stages of the pandemic, back in March, would be the only way to curb the type of spread the U.S. has seen in the time since. The country currently leads the world with more than 6 million reported cases of coronavirus and 196,763 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins. The legality of a nationwide stay-at-home order is questionable, and Trump — who recently admitted to downplaying the threat of coronavirus — said earlier this year he is “pretty unlikely” to issue the order.”
In lieu of federal guidance, several states have issued their own stay-at-home orders and directives regarding when and how businesses may open safely. When instituted, local stay-at-home orders are meant to ensure proper hygiene and reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
The troubling comparison made by Barr is in line with his past dismissiveness toward instances and allegations of racism.
During Wednesday’s speech, for example, the attorney general claimed anti-racist protesters in the Black Lives Matter movement don’t care about Black lives and are using “a small number of Blacks that are killed by police during conflict with police” as props. Barr has repeatedly tried to associate anti-racist protesters with violent extremists, all while his office has faced continued calls to address the growing threat of white nationalism more forcefully.