How can you hate me if you don’t even know me?” Daryl Davis and the KKK

In the last post I flagged a prac­ti­cal exam­ple of reduc­ing inter-group com­mu­ni­ca­tion to inter-per­son­al rela­tion­ships, and here it is. A few weeks ago I was down a Reddit rab­bit hole and came across this AMA from Daryl Davis. In it he dis­cuss­es his doc­u­men­tary ‘Accidental Courtesy that doc­u­ments his rela­tion­ship over the years with mem­bers of the Klu Klux Klan (KKK). After hav­ing a read through the pages of the AMA, I was intrigued and watched the doc­u­men­tary on Netflix.

One poignant moment in the doc­u­men­tary is where he talks about his moti­va­tion for cul­ti­vat­ing friend­ships with Klansmen. There the over­rid­ing ques­tion he asks is “How can you hate me if you don’t even know me?” From sit­ting down in a bar with Klansmen, to being invit­ed into their home, this question—and the asso­ci­at­ed inter­per­son­al interaction—drives the con­ver­sa­tion at hand. The results show how suc­cess­ful it is, as Davis dis­plays a wardrobe full of Klan robes that were giv­en to him after mem­bers had left the Klan.

Daryl Davis’ doc­u­men­tary is a strong exam­ple of the the­o­ry that we talked about in the last post. He is active­ly reduc­ing inter-group inter­ac­tion to inter-per­son­al inter­ac­tion by face-to-face con­tact and conversation.

A cou­ple of points from his AMA are worth repeat­ing. He writes:

While you are active­ly learn­ing about some­one else, real­ize that you are pas­sive­ly teach­ing them about your­self. Be hon­est and respect­ful to them, regard­less of how offen­sive you may find them. You can let them know your dis­agree­ment but not in an offen­sive manner.

Don’t be afraid to invite some­one with a dif­fer­ent opin­ion to your table. If every­one in your group agrees with one anoth­er and you shun those who don’t agree, how will any­thing ever change? You are doing noth­ing more than preach­ing to the choir.

When two ene­mies are talk­ing, they are not fight­ing, they are talk­ing. They may be yelling and scream­ing and pound­ing their fist on the table in dis­agree­ment to dri­ve home their point, but at least they are talk­ing. It is when the talk­ing ceas­es, that the ground becomes fer­tile for vio­lence. So, KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING.

I high­ly rec­om­mend the doc­u­men­tary, which is avail­able on Netflix: Accidental Courtesy. Its a good approach, and while it is focused on race rela­tions in America, the con­cepts behind it are broad­ly applic­a­ble. If you don’t have Netflix, then NPR have an inter­view with Davis up here: The AMA on Reddit also con­tains some absolute gold from Davis and others.

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