Musician and Author Daryl Davis Has Convinced 200 White People to Leave the KKK After Confronting Racism With Friendship

Daryl Davis, a black man, has single-handedly caused more than 200 white racists to leave the Ku Klux Klan simply by confronting their prejudice with FRIENDSHIP.
Daryl Davis, a black man, has single-handedly caused more than 200 white racists to leave the Ku Klux Klan simply by confronting their prejudice with FRIENDSHIP.

A black man has single-handedly caused more than 200 white racists to leave the Ku Klux Klan simply by confronting their prejudice with friendship.

Inspirational Daryl Davis, 58, a blues musician and author, has travelled all over the US since the early 1980s actively seeking out and befriending members of the openly racist organisation.

The Ku Klux Klan, or KKK, is a US white supremacy cult founded in 1865 actively organizing members to persecute people for the color of their skin or their religious beliefs.

But Daryl Davis has been battling the hatred and answering a call he has felt since he was a young man when he decided to confront the ideology of the KKK head-on one member at a time.

He has since documented his incredible mission in the book ‘Klan-destine Relationships: A Black Man’s Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan’ which is set to be re-released with an updated version next year.

Daryl, from Chicago, has also found time for a celebrated music career in R&B and blues, playing alongside the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and former President Bill Clinton, and he counted the legendary Muddy Waters among his friends.

Daryl said: ‘Music absolutely played a massive role in bridging many gaps in the racial divides I would encounter. Once when I was performing in a predominantly white venue, a white man approached me on my break and put his arm around me and exclaimed, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever heard a black man play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis’.

‘I quickly enlightened him as to the origin of Jerry Lee’s music and told him that Jerry Lee had learned that style from black Boogie Woogie and blues piano players.

‘The man did not believe me, despite the fact that I further told him that Jerry Lee was a good friend of mine and he had told me himself where he learned that style. But, the gentleman was fascinated with the idea that a black man could play like that.

‘He was curious and wanted to learn more about me. It was then revealed to me by him that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Over time, he and I became good friends. He ended up leaving the KKK.’

Daryl said he is never unprepared for violence from those he meets, as any member he confronts can potentially be someone who would want to do him harm. In those rare cases, he said one of them ended up in hospital and the other in jail.

He said: ‘There have been some incidents in which I was threatened and a couple of instances where I had to physically fight. Fortunately, I won in both instances.

‘These things happen from time to time, but it is to be expected, because you are dealing with someone who hates you and wants to be violent just because of the colour of your skin.

‘Some of them are absolutely repulsed when they see a black person and want to hurt that person. At the core of it, although they won’t at first admit it, they express superiority, but truly feel inferiority and in order to elevate themselves, they have to push someone else down.’

A meeting that could have ended up in violence was when Daryl met a Grand Dragon, a rank in the KKK, in Maryland, a man called Roger Kelly.

Daryl said: ‘I was very well prepared for the meeting in terms of knowledge of my topic. I have just about every book written on the Klan and I’ve read them all.

‘In fact, I know more about the KKK than most Klan members know about their own organisation. Knowledge, information, wit, and the way you disseminate these attributes can often prove to be a more disarming weapon against an enemy or some with whom your ideology is in conflict, than violence or lethal weapons.

‘I was heavily armed with those attributes. I had been told by someone who knew him very well, that Roger Kelly would kill me. I felt confident without any physical weapon that I would prevail. Fortunately, I proved it true.’

In fact Daryl said he was so successful in his prevailing that the KKK ‘branch’ in Maryland is now non-existent, with perhaps four people turning up for a meeting ‘and two of them are drunk’.

He said: ‘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.

Daryl travelled a lot as a child as his parents served with the American Foreign Service, and he said it was that experience of different cultures that helped him see just how alien the idea of racism is.

He said: ‘When I would return home every two years, it baffled me as to why people judged others by their skin colour. This was a very strange concept to me.

‘This is a quote from the American author Mark Twain, which I find to be most accurate: ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime’.’

Despite his incredible work Daryl does receive some mixed reactions to making friendships with people who have held such extremist views.

He said: ‘There was surprise and shock on both sides (black and white), mostly from people who don’t know me, or who haven’t bothered to research me, read up on me, or hear my interviews or lectures.

‘Not all, but most of the criticism has come from black people. I have been called a ‘sellout’, ‘Uncle Tom’, ‘Oreo’ and a number of other terrible names.

‘Unfortunately, I must compare these particular black people with the KKK and other white supremacist groups, with no distinction, other than the colour of their skin.

‘This is because they are engaging in the exact same hateful behaviour as they accuse the white racists. I can explain it like this, because I’ve seen it on both sides.

Daryl said America today was probably less racist than it had been in the past but that he continues his work every day.

‘In Israel, it’s Palestinian versus Jew. In Lebanon, it’s Christian versus Muslim. In Iraq, it’s Suni Muslim versus Shiite Muslim. In certain African countries, the conflict is tribal. In India, we see a caste system based on the shade of skin color and classicism.

‘There has always been a great deal of racism in the U.S. before and after Obama. However, racism in the US is down, post Obama.

‘What you are seeing is those people who were dormant racists, being given a new lease on life by the sentiments of our new President-Elect.

‘They celebrate his election. But, let me be clear here. Every racist I know, and I know a lot of them, voted for Trump. However, that does not mean that everyone who voted for Trump is a racist. I know a lot of people who voted for him who are not racist.’

Daily Mail