Black Musician Talks Race With KKK Members — And Hundreds Have Quit the Klan Because of Him
Blues musician and African-American Daryl Davis collects robes from KKK members who have quit the Klan. He has a couple dozen. “As shameful as it is, this is a part of American history. …The good, the bad, the ugly. And the Ku Klux Klan is as American as baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet.” Davis’ fascination isn’t with the robes. He’s trying to get the answer to his question: “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?”
Davis’ quest for the answer to that question started in the early ’80s. One night Davis played in an all-white lounge. After the show, he was approached by a man in the bar who liked his piano playing. The man invited him back to his table for a drink. He went, and the man told him it was the first time he’d had a drink with a black man. When asked why, the man revealed that he was a member of the KKK. While they held opposing beliefs, Davis began a friendship with the man. Eventually, the man left the Klan. Since then, Davis has “accidentally” persuaded over 200 racists to leave the Klan behind — by having a frank conversation about race.
Davis said he invites people to have dinner or attend his concerts. He befriends them and gives them a platform to speak about their beliefs. Through this, many have changed their ideologies. “Some of them have become friends of mine, good friends of mine and some of them have ended up leaving the Klan and now I own their robes and hoods.” Davis says he’s glad to have the robes and hoods because “it shows that people can indeed change.”
The change cannot come about by only talking with people with whom we agree, says Davis. He explained:
Let’s say you and 20 other people have this group that is anti-racist. And all you do is talk about how bad racism is. Well, what good is that group doing? All you’re doing is preaching to the choir. If you and I agree, I’m not accomplishing anything by trying to convince you of what you already know. The way you resolve that is, you invite somebody to the table who disagrees with you so you’ll understand why they have that point of view. Then perhaps, you would figure out a solution to dissuade their fears.
Davis said he never started out trying to convert anyone. “I just set out to get that answer to my question: How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?”
So far, his plan is working. “I’ve seen things change. I’ve seen people change. And that inspires me.”
Davis’ story was released as a documentary, now available on Netflix, titled Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America.
Watch the trailer: