A Dallas ER Doc Confronts Racism And Winds Up at the Center of a National Conversation

Dr. Brian Williams. (Photo by Jeremiah Stanley)
Dr. Brian Williams. (Photo by Jeremiah Stanley)

The surgeon’s white coat had always provided him a certain amount of protection, insulation from things that happened to other black men.

But Dr. Brian Williams, a trauma surgeon at Parkland hospital, couldn’t wear the coat everywhere. So he had devised a system of secondary markers, hopeful talismans in case police pulled him over. He bought a specialty license plate cover, signaling he was a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He listed his status as a military veteran on his driver’s license. He wore his hospital badge around his neck, whether he was driving to work or not.

Williams, 47, was especially aware of those indicators when he drove his silver Honda to the hospital that Thursday afternoon in July. Navigating the streets of Dallas, his mind churned with images of two recent police shootings—of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota. Both videos had affirmed his fears that any encounter with police could turn deadly.

For several hours at work, Williams handled typical evening arrivals: a car crash, a gallbladder surgery, an acute appendicitis. Then, at around 9 pm, his pager buzzed: Multiple gunshot victims.

Williams hurried into the trauma bay as nurses rolled in a severely wounded Dallas police officer, the first of several. He tossed aside his white coat and snapped on rubber gloves, stepping into another bloody episode in the nation’s racial history, and a turning point in his own.

This piece runs in the October issue of D Magazine. You should absolutely click this link to read the rest

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