In the 1980s, R&B musician Daryl Davis met his first Klan member.
He had just finished playing a gig when an older white man told him he’d “never seen a black man who could play like Jerry Lee Lewis.”
Instead of being offended, Davis struck up a conversation with the man, who eventually revealed that he was a member of the Triple-K.
Davis did not recoil.
Instead, he decided to befriend the guy.
Then, after some time, he asked to meet the man’s other Triple-K friends.
Not long after that, Davis found himself in the strangest situation ever:
Attending Klan meetings and cross-lighting rallies with people who purported to hate his guts just because of the color of his skin.
And, of course, the inevitable happened.
As these Klan members got to know and love Davis, more than one of them left the organization.
Some even gave their Triple-K “uniforms” to Davis when he asked for them.
In total, over the course of 30 years, Davis single-handedly converted 200 people from blind racists into good friends.
Often, knee-jerk anger keeps people from hearing each other and realizing that even though we sometimes hurt each other, we are all human beings.
We’ve all experienced loss, and fear, and hatred (hating people, and being hated ourselves).
And in our pain, it’s tempting to become a source of pain for others.
Yet we are also capable of kindness, joy, and love.
But only if we are willing.
In other words, if there is hope of reconciliation and peace, the first step is to have a little humility.
Just a little. Enough to be willing to listen.
Or, if you have the gumption, to do what Davis did, and actively go after people who you ordinarily would not hang out with, pursuing them not out of vengeful anger but kind curiosity.
As Davis himself once said:
“How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?’
It takes humility to get to know someone. To reserve judgment and give yourself a chance to see the redeemable side of even the most awful human you know.
Doing so may not end up “converting” everyone, but you never know.
At the very least, it will probably make your life a little less painful and your example a little more bright 🙂
If you want to read more, I wrote a bit on this topic here.
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