A black doctor who treated shooting victims of a Dallas attack that left five police officers dead spoke out Monday on the fraught relationship between people of color and law enforcement.
Dr. Brian Williams was on duty at Parkland Hospital last Thursday when a sniper shot 14 people during a peaceful protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Seven officers were treated at the hospital. Three of them died.
Williams was visibly upset, as he sat as the lone minority on a panel of mostly white first responders speaking at a news conference about the attack. He said being on the front lines after such an incident was “much more complicated” for him personally, as both a black American and a doctor.
“There’s this dichotomy where I’m standing with law enforcement, but I also personally feel that angst that comes when you cross the path of an officer in uniform and you’re fearing for your safety,” Williams told reporters. “I’ve been there, and I understand that.
“I want Dallas police also to see me, a black man, and understand that I support you, I will defend you and I will care for you. That doesn’t mean that I do not fear you.”
Williams pointed to the difficulty he’s faced seeing the endless spate of officer-involved shootings in recent years. Just last week, Alton Sterling was shot and killed outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile was fatally shot during a traffic stop in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.
The doctor condemned 25-year-old Micah Johnson’s attack on police in Dallas. He didn’t “understand why people think its OK to kill police officers,” Williams told CNN’s Don Lemon. But that same confusion extends to continuing danger of simply being black in America, he stressed.
“I don’t understand why black men die in custody and they’re forgotten the next day,” Williams said. “I don’t know why this has to be us against them. This is all really... it has to stop.”
Police have killed some 140 black people, according to the Guardian’s tracking project The Counted.
“We are all in this together, we are all connected,” Williams said. “All this violence, all this hatred, all these disagreements, it impacts us all, whether you realize it or not. This is not the kind of world we want to leave for our children. Something has to be done.”
“When incidents like this occur, there’s a big chunk of our citizenry that feels as if, because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same, and that hurts,” Obama said, following Castile’s death.
Just days after the Dallas attack, Williams said the incident has been playing in his mind constantly, “like this bad movie on an endless loop.”
“It absolutely has changed me,” he said. “I’m certainly not the only African-American male in this country that feels the way I do towards law enforcement. But I work with them on a daily basis. They’re my colleagues. They’re my friends.
“There are a lot of people talking at each other, talking over each other, trying to shout each other out, but I don’t see people truly listening to the other side, truly putting themselves in their shoes and seeing the world through their eyes. And until we’re ready to do that, there probably will not be any truly substantive change.”