Daryl Davis says he has seen hate up close, but he went out of his way to find it.
Davis is an African-American who built close relationships with Klan members in the ’90’s in order to write his explorative book, “Klan Destine Relationships.” The book was the first ever documentation of the KKK from the perspective of an African-American, one who actually sat down and spoke with members.
Davis said his mission in writing the book was not to convert anyone, but rather to find out why or how someone could hate him without knowing anything about him.
“There is nothing more powerful than you teaching me everything you know and me teaching you everything I know,” he said. “I have seen hundreds of cultures and they all have values and we can learn from all of them.”
As a child, Davis grew up in various countries around the world. His parent’s were foreign officers and he has traveled to 50 countries because of their jobs and his own personal interests.
Davis said that his childhood experiences made him especially na’ve to racism because he had lived in so many cultures where it simply did not exist.
After experiencing racism in America and hearing leaders of the American Nazi Party speak at his high school, Davis said he became intrigued with the idea of supremacy and began to read as much about it as he could.
Many years later, people were reading Davis’s book about supremacy and racism.
He began his book by going to a Klan member that he had met at a band gig. Although the member was no longer a Klan member, he gave Davis contact information for the Klan leader in the state of Maryland, where they lived.
Davis and his secretary went to a bar where the state leader, Roger Kelly, often got drinks, but he failed to find him there. He then had his secretary call to schedule an interview.
Davis told the secretary not to tell Kelly he was black.
When the two finally did meet, Davis said Kelly was shocked to discover that he was black, but the interview ultimately went over smoothly, with only one non-verbal confrontation taking place between the two. Davis said the confrontation occurred due to the ignorance the two had for each other when they met.
“Ignorance breeds fear, and we fear things we don’t understand,” he said. “If we don’t keep this fear in check, it breeds hatred, and if we don’t keep the hatred in check, it breeds destruction.”
At the end of the interview, Kelly gave Davis his Klan card and told him to keep in touch and Kelly did.
After the initial interview, Kelly and Davis had many meetings, all of which Kelly brought his bodyguard to.
However, after a while, Kelly began to come alone and the two started to have dinner and meet at each other’s houses.
It was because they respected each other’s right to their own views that they were able to build such a relationship, Davis said.
“I am an ordinary man. My vocation is a musician and if I can do these things, anyone can do these things if they employ my methods,” he said.
Kelly Taylor, a junior psychology major, said she attended the event because she was interested in how Davis surmounted such large racial barriers.
“I think that if you can resolve that racial conflict, there is no reason that other racial conflicts should not be solved,” she said.
Senior Reporter Cece Wildeman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.