Daryl Davis, a Chicago-based blues musician, is doing the improbable: he's opening the minds of racists, one at a time. Davis says, since 1983, he's convinced at least 25 members of the Ku Klux Klan to give up their membership to the hateful group, and now his mission is the subject of a new documentary.
Accidental Courtesy, which premiered at SXSW earlier this month, follows Davis as he tries to convince men to leave the KKK by winning them over with friendship and kindness. Davis spoke about his journey with The Daily Beast, saying, "We all are human beings at the end of the day."
Davis's story began in 1983, when he played a gig at an all-white lounge. After the show, a white man approached him and said that he had never seen a Black man play as well as Jerry Lee Lewis. Davis informed the man that Lewis had, in fact, been trained by Black musicians. "He was fascinated," David told Guardian Liberty Voice, "but he didn't believe me. Then he told me he was a Klansman."
That same man, an "Imperial Wizard" named Roger Kelly, formed a friendship with Davis. Their bond grew so strong that Kelly eventually decided to leave the Klan, and handed his robes over to Davis.
Davis kept the robes, and added to his collection as he convinced more Klansmen, one at a time, to see the light. He now has about 20 pairs of white cloaks that serve as proof that he is making a difference.
“You’re going to be on one side, somebody’s going to be on the other side,” Davis said at a SXSW screening. “Invite those people to the table. Sit down and talk. Because when two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting.” He continued, "They may be yelling and screaming or pounding the table, but at least they’re talking, they’re not fighting.”
Davis has said that just as his new friends who leave the KKK face backlash from their former group members, some in the Black community have called him an "Uncle Tom," and an "Uncle Ruckus."
Clearly, those are labels he's willing to live with in purpose of the important work he's doing. Anyone else think it would be a great idea for Davis to sit down with Donald Trump and some of his supporters?
(Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post/Getty Images)