September 12, 2017

How can you hate me if you don't even know me?

Musician Daryl Davis has spent more than 30 years on a mission to make friends with – and sometimes even convert - KKK members.

More than 30 years ago, Daryl Davis, a renowned blues musician who has played with Chuck Berry, had an encounter that would change his life - and the lives of many others. A man approached after a show to tell the musician that he played the music of Jerry Lee Lewis very well. After a swift education on the black origins of rock and roll, the two men fell into deeper conversation during which the white man revealed he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Davis was fascinated and a lifelong obsession was born.

Today, Davis is one of the world's most respected authorities on the KKK and claims that about 200 members walked away from the organisation in large part due to their friendships with him. "How can you hate me if you don't even know me?" is the central plank of his philosophy and a question he asks of many.

Not everyone, though, agrees with his approach. One of the most compelling sequences in Accidental Courtesy - a documentary on the jovial musician's life - features a tense confrontation between Davis and members of the Black Lives Matters movement.

"Infiltrating the Klan ain't freeing your people," activist Kwame Rose tells Davis. "Befriending a white person who doesn’t have to go through the struggles of you, me … that's not an accomplishment. That's a new friend."

On Tuesday's Stream, we meet Davis to talk about his methods and the current state of race relations in the United States. We also meet Scott Shepherd, a former Grand Dragon in the Ku Klux Klan who now calls Davis his brother.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with: 

Daryl Davis
Blues musician, author/actor and race relations expert 

Scott Shepherd @ReformedRacist
Anti-racism activist
Former Ku-Klux Klan leader and white supremacist

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.