How to Turn People Away From Racism: Tips and Advice From Daryl Davis, the Musician and Activist Who Befriended and Converted KKK Members

Daryl Davis on turning people away from racism
Daryl Davis attends the TDI Awards during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Spring Studios in New York on April 25. Rob Kim/Getty

Musician and race relations activist Daryl Davis is offering his tips on how to turn people away from racist ideologies.

The black musician, who has played with everyone from B.B. King to Chuck Berry, is also known for befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan and convincing them to renounce their beliefs.

In a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session Monday, Davis said he believes he is directly responsible for convincing between 50 and 60 Klansmen to renounce their extreme beliefs. He also thinks he's "been the impetus for a couple of hundred" more people leaving.

So how does he do it? It's all about dialogue, he said.

Davis wrote the following instructional guide, if you will, in response to a question asking how to prevent people from turning to racism:

People make the mistake of forming anti-racist groups that are rendered ineffective from the start because [they] ONLY invite those who share their beliefs to their meetings.

  • Provide a safe neutral meeting place
  • Learn as much as you can about the ideology of a racist or perceived racist in your area
  • Invite that person to meet with your group

VERY IMPORTANT - LISTEN to that person. What is his/her primary concern? Place yourself in their shoes. What would you do to address their concern if it were you?

  • Ask questions, but keep calm in the face of their loud, boisterous posture if that is on display, don't combat it with the same

While you are actively learning about someone else, realize that you are passively teaching them about yourself. Be honest and respectful to them, regardless of how offensive you may find them. You can let them know your disagreement but not in an offensive manner.

  • Don't be afraid to invite someone with a different opinion to your table. If everyone in your group agrees with one another and you shun those who don't agree, how will anything ever change? You are doing nothing more than preaching to the choir.

When two enemies are talking, they are not fighting, they are talking. They may be yelling and screaming and pounding their fist on the table in disagreement to drive home their point, but at least they are talking. It is when the talking ceases, that the ground becomes fertile for violence. So, KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING.

In his own interactions, Davis said he simply wants to ask people, "How can you hate me when you don't even know me?"

"I never set out to convert anyone," the musician wrote. "I just wanted the answer to my question. But over time, through repeated interactions with various KKK members around the country, some of them began questioning their own beliefs as a result of their interactions and conversations with me. Then they began quitting, and I was astounded. Exposure and one-on-one dialogue is the KEY to solving a lot of issues in this country, not just racial ones."

How to Turn People Away From Racism: Tips and Advice From Daryl Davis, the Musician and Activist Who Befriended and Converted KKK Members | Culture