On Thursday, CNN reported that Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro, a Venezuelan-American immigrant, attempted to discuss the challenges of racial disparities during a Zoom meeting — but she was continually disrupted by a hum of people in the background laughing at her accent.
"Navarro ... was speaking during a virtual meeting on Tuesday about how the county's coronavirus vaccine rollout had failed people of color and the burden she felt as a Latina in local leadership," reported Harmeet Kaur. "In the background, there was the faint sound of chatter and laughter from two people who seemingly didn't realize they weren't on mute."
One man said, "I love how her accent comes out ... and pronounces words that she thinks that they're pronounced," particularly noting he thought her pronunciation of "represent" and "hologram" were funny. "I heard 'hologram,' and I was like, 'That's kinda interesting,'" said another man, and a woman laughed and added, "So cute."
"This sort of commentary is completely inappropriate and uncalled for," wrote Navarro in a memo to fellow councilmembers. "It is a loud commentary on the toxicity and culture of disrespect directed at leaders and community members of color."
Communities of color have struggled to obtain vaccines as the national effort has rolled out. In some cases, states have actively opposed efforts to correct this imbalance. Lawmakers in the Michigan state Senate have advanced legislation that would make it illegal to consider racial impacts when planning vaccine delivery, and the Texas Department of Health forced Dallas County to stop prioritizing minority communities by threatening to stop distributing vaccines to the county altogether.