Screenshot/“Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America”
There are many headlines in the news today about fighting white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan with violence.
However, decades ago 58-year-old Blues musician Daryl Davis learned the most effective way to get a Klansman to give up his hood: friendship.
Daryl Davis has a unique hobby.
In his spare time, he befriends white supremacists. Lots of them. Hundreds. He goes to where they live. Meets them at their rallies. Dines with them in their homes. He gets to know them because, in his words, “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me? Look at me and tell me to my face why you should lynch me.”
He also is a collector of KKK robes. He collects them as souvenirs when KKK members decide to give up on racism because of his friendship.
Davis, a Christian, has met with white supremacists for three decades. He never tries to convert the Klansmen. He simply becomes friends with them and they give up the KKK on their own. According to an interview with The Independent, Davis is “happy” to be friends with former Klansmen:
It’s a wonderful thing when you see a light bulb pop on in their heads or they call you and tell you they are quitting. I never set out to convert anyone in the Klan. I just set out to get an answer to my question: “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?” I simply gave them a chance to get to know me and treat them the way I want to be treated.
They come to their own conclusion that this ideology is no longer for them.
I am often the impetus for coming to that conclusion and I’m very happy that some positivity has come out of my meetings and friendships with them.
Not all are fans of Davis’s tactics. The musician receives deep criticism from some African-American leaders who call him “Uncle Tom” and “Oreo.” According to an interview with The Atlantic:
He also asked, “Have you ever gotten criticism from black folks?”
“Of course,” Davis replied. “Absolutely. Not black people who are friends of mine, who know me and understand where I’m coming from. Some black people who have not heard me interviewed or read my book jump to conclusions and prejudge me … I’ve been called Uncle Tom. I’ve been called an Oreo.” It doesn’t sway him:
I had one guy from an NAACP branch chew me up one side and down the other, saying, “you know, we’ve worked hard to get ten steps forward. Here you are sitting down with the enemy having dinner, you’re putting us twenty steps back.”
I pull out my robes and hoods and say, “look, this is what I’ve done to put a dent in racism. I’ve got robes and hoods hanging in my closet by people who’ve given up that belief because of my conversations sitting down to dinner. They gave it up. How many robes and hoods have you collected?” And then they shut up.
Collecting the hoods of Klansmen who give up their racist beliefs is an incredible result for Davis.
Davis’s story can be seen in the film “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America.” You can watch the trailer here: