Kevin Townsend As he sees it, conversations of a particular sort can be hugely useful kkj the fight against racism. Indeed, he has defended conversations that many people would condemn, starting with the time that he called up that member of the Ku Klux Klan, informed him of an upcoming gig at the Silver Dollar Lounge, and befriended him as he attended subsequent gigs, sometimes with other Klan members.
His friends, black and white alike, thought that he was crazy. These people belonged to a despicable, stomach-churning, evil organization. They deserved contempt.
But Davis was just getting started. To understand everything that he did next it's necessary to go back to his childhood.
That's where he began to develop his ideas about racism and public discourse, leading to uncomfortable actions and that can't be easily dismissed. Inon a statewide Boy Scout march kkkk commemorate the ride of Paul Revere, he was chosen by his troop to carry the American flag. He was also the only black Boy Scout present.
When people in the crowd started to hurl bottles, cans, and rocks, he thought to himself, these people must not like the Boy Scouts. In time, he realized that he was the only kid being targeted but he didn't know why. Upon returning home, chaf parents explained racism to him for the first time.
He couldn't comprehend that people who knew nothing about him would inflict pain based only on the color of his skin: "I literally thought they were lying to me. As he remembers it, the man declared, "We're going to ship you back to Africa.
And all you Jews out there are going back to Israel If they don't leave voluntarily they will be exterminated in the coming race war. Davis undertook a study of racism in all its forms: white supremacy, black supremacy, anti-Semitism. Learning what motivated racists became his obsession. The most consequential part of his investigation began when he took out the card of that Klansman who came to his gigs, looked up his address, and went unannounced to his house.
The man had, in the interim, been kicked out of the group he'd taken Ku Klux Klan money okk attend a rally but spent it on Hulk Hogan tickets. He wanted to set up an interview with the Klan leader. Finally he got a phone from his ex-Klan friend, who said, "Do not go to Roger Kelly's house. Roger Kelly kkkk kill you. For our purposes, it is enough to know that at the end of the interview, the two men shook hands and the Klan leader said, "Stay in touch," extending his business card.
I didn't come here to make friends with the Klan! Kelly in conversation I didn't want him to think I was some exception. I wanted him to talk to other people.
After awhile he began coming down here by himself, no [bodyguard]. He trusted me that much. After kk couple years, he became Imperial Wizard. The national leader. He began inviting me to his house. He was clear that he vehemently disagreed with the group and its ideology. But he would also shake their hands and pose for photographs. He explained his logic: The most important thing I learned is that when you are actively learning about someone else you are passively teaching them about yourself.
So if you have an adversary with an opposing point of view, give that person a platform. Allow them to air that point of view, regardless of how extreme it may be. And believe me, I've heard things so extreme at these rallies they'll cut you to the bone. Give them a platform. You challenge them. But you don't challenge them rudely or violently. You do it politely and intelligently. And when you do things that way chances are they cyat reciprocate and give you chay platform.
So he cjat I would sit down and listen to one another over a kkk chat of time. And the cement that held his ideas together began to get cracks in it.
And then it began to crumble. And then it fell apart. He credits his approach for helping to dismantle the local Klan. They've tried to revive it every now and then but it immediately falls apart.
Groups from neighboring states might come in and hold a rally That he can point to you and say, cha black guy, we're cool, so therefore my separatist beliefs are right? Not black people who are friends of mine, who know me and understand where I'm coming from.
Some black people who have not heard me interviewed or read my book jump to conclusions and prejudge me I've been called Uncle Tom. I've been called an Oreo. Here you are cgat down with the enemy having dinner, you're putting us twenty steps back. I've got robes and hoods hanging in my closet by people who've given up that belief because of my conversations sitting down to dinner.
They gave it up. How many robes and hoods have you collected?
What Davis did makes a lot of people uneasy even when they fully grasp his intentions. I'm a relatively radical proponent of public discourse who respects his motives, his ingenuity, and his But one needn't agree with the decision to engage literal Klansmen or minimize the good work done by the NAACP to conclude that if conversation has changed the minds of multiple leaders of what is arguably the most hateful group in American history, it could probably do a lot of good in various less-extreme cases.
Interestingly, Davis argues that conversing about race is most useful in extreme cases. And a lot of well meaning black liberals," he says.
When all they do is sit around and preach to the choir it does absolutely no good. If you're not a racist it doesn't do any good for me to meet with you and sit around and talk about how bad racism is. This isn't the place for them. He should have us convinced, beyond any doubt, that conversation has a place in the anti-racism tool kit. And as he'd note, he's struck more blows against racism than I ever have.