“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: http://www.npr.org/2017/08/20/544861933/how-one-man-convinced-200-ku-klux-klan-members-to-give-up-their-robes The AMA on Reddit also contains some absolute gold from Davis and others.


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