“I will tell you what it’s like to be a Black man in America.”

June 30, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

This is the first in a series of articles and stories about the people of Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council of Edward-Elmhurst Health: We are DRIVEN to create a culture in which all races, ethnicities, religions, sexual-orientations, physical abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds can meet, share, learn, and flourish in an accepting environment. By creating platforms and opportunities that allow us to come together, we can begin to know and understand each other. And through better understanding, we can effectively meet the needs of our diverse patients and deliver on our mission. 

When Dr. Daryl Wilson enters a room, you notice him. For starters, he’s 6 feet, 5 inches tall. He wears his long dreadlocks tied back in a ponytail, and he has one of those energetic smiles that you can’t miss. You notice him because of an inexplicable energy  the kind of charisma that only some people seem to bring with them wherever they go. The first impression of Dr. Daryl Wilson  wow, this guy is a force.

When Dr. Daryl Wilson has something he wants to say, people listen.

And once you get to know him, you learn that he does, indeed, have something to say. As a Black man, a physician and a father, Dr. Wilson has faced the kinds of challenges that most of us will never completely understand.

“My family, relatives and friends have a unique experience. We don’t always see things through the same eyes. People look at me and say, ‘That’s a success.’ It’s true. I’m privileged. But only because of the blood, sweat and tears of those before me.

“My parents knew the only way to succeed was to have an education that puts you in a place of power. My grandparents dedicated everything they had to my mother  to making sure she had as much education as was possible. And because my mother, a PhD, was in that unique position, I am privileged.”

But Dr. Wilson has stories. Memories that clearly sting. He talks about the lessons he learned as a Black child growing up that most of us don’t need to learn. “If you’re pulled over by the police, never take your hands off the wheel. Always say ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir.’ Never show any disrespect.”

“There is a contract in this world that not everyone has to sign  the racial contract. There is still a false sense that somehow the amount of melanin in your skin has something to do with your place. The reality is  there is still a strand in the DNA of our society that people who look like me are ‘the other.’”

Dr. Wilson, though he rarely shows it, acknowledges that he’s tired and angry. At the health system’s recent White Coats for Black Lives event, he found an opportunity to speak  to share feelings that clearly define who he is. The response has been remarkable.

We hope you’re listening. 

Dr. Daryl Wilson, Edward Hospital emergency medicine physician, made this speech following the White Coats for Black Lives event at Edward Hospital on Friday, June 5.

You know what? It’s funny because I can leave the hospital, take off all of this doctor garb, and I just become one of the threatening, dangerous, Black men in America.

So when you guys think about the privilege that you have of taking off your uniform and still being a white person in America, remember what I go through as a respectful human being here who takes care of this community that I live in, that I love.

Think of what I go through every day or the things I have gone through in my life. If you want to know, ask me personally and I will tell you what it’s like to be a Black man in America. I do have privilege, I do. But there is a power structure in place that lets me know where my privilege ends. 

If you want to know what it’s really like, come talk to me. I will tell you about my life as a child, about growing up in America and understanding what my place was supposed to be. Because it’s power that people need and want, and when people give you stuff, they have the power. I am not going to ask for stuff. I will be me — a human being living in this world with all of you.

You can’t be heard when you are silenced. If you silently ask for power, no one will give it to you. When you’re silent, nobody has to listen to you.

So sometimes I sit there with my tongue firmly planted in cheek on the way that things are done. In the way that I, as a physician, am not recognized as a physician by patients or disrespected because they think that my knowledge is less than others, when we all know I am the smartest guy here.

So, it’s not enough to kneel for nine minutes. I have been living as a Black man in America for 49 years. If this heat was uncomfortable for you, walk in my skin and be uncomfortable for a day. Bet you wouldn’t choose that, right? You can choose to not be in the heat for nine minutes, but you didn’t because you were smart.

There are many George Floyds in the world who are never shown to any of you. There are threats to all of us Black men, specifically as the threat, as the danger. What’s dangerous is ignoring the pathology that leads to individuals rioting in the streets. None of us as physicians can ignore the lump on our patient’s arm or breast until it becomes painful and has metastasized and is killing the host.

We have been ignoring this lump, this cancer, of inequality for the longest time. We can’t do that anymore because we are dying. We are dying. If we die, all of you die as well.

So, as healthcare providers, as intelligent people, we have to take care of this pathology. It is a disease. We are all responsible for taking care of this disease. It may still be in your heart, so let it go. It may be tied to your children, let it go. It may be your parents, let it go. But we are healers, right? So, let’s start healing. Start today. You think you have been doing it for years? Nope, start today by actively, not passively, healing.

My name is Daryl Wilson, I’m a Black man in America, I am a physician, I am a punk Black guy, I have three kids, I am awesome, let’s let everybody else be awesome, too.


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