Klan We Talk: Daryl Davis And The KKK

Jazz musician, Daryl Davis, with a member of the Ku Klux Klan at a rally.

Paul M. Walsh

Jazz musician, Daryl Davis, with a member of the Ku Klux Klan at a rally.

Cole Garber, Staff Writer & Page Designer

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It’s a strange sight to see an African American at a KKK rally, but even stranger for one to be invited to a rally. Daryl Davis is a blues musician, author, and bandleader, but also has an interesting hobby of befriending members of the Klan and convincing them to give up their robes.

It started for Davis back when he was a child – he could not understand why a group of masked individuals hated him so much without so much as meeting him. Davis began to read up on the Klan and continued this fascination throughout his life.

At a certain point he had gotten the contact information of an imperial wizard (a state leader of the Klan) named Roger Kelly. Davis arranged a meeting through his white secretary without letting Kelly know about his skin color. When the meeting took place, both Davis and the wizard were a bit surprised – Davis because Kelly had brought an armed bodyguard, and Kelly because Davis was black. Tension was very high during that meeting, but, they began to talk. The blues musician began to consistently call on Kelly to talk, and slowly Kelly began to come alone without his bodyguard. Then the wizard would invite Davis on his own. Suddenly and miraculously, Davis had made a friend out of an imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. It was just half a year later than Roger Kelly gave his robes to Davis and denounced the Klan.

This story is not an outlier to Davis’ methods though, the man has accumulated over 200 robes from Klan members over the past 30 years. It brings into question how we act and react towards hate groups and rhetoric. In the divisive society we live in now, Davis believes that we need to strive towards discourse driven situations rather than silencing or demonizing individuals for their beliefs.

This train of thought makes absolute sense when analyzed further: when you silence or hate on a group whose whole premise is that they are hated, then you just gave them grounds to their own argument. Furthermore by suppressing them you are sinking to their levels, which brings into question whether or not what you’re doing is a whole lot different than what they do. To oppress an individual on the basis of race is akin to doing so on the basis of ideology; discrimination in one facet is the same as it is in the other.

We should follow in Davis’ example, to treat one another as human beings rather than as lesser, even when the other party thinks that way.