Daryl Davis
997,615 views • 16:17

So a black guy walks into a bar - sounds like the beginning of a bad joke; I see people shifting around a little bit, but it gets better - and the first thing he sees is everybody else in there is white. So he sits down at the piano on the stage with the band, to play, and on the band break, a white gentleman comes up to him and says, "You know, this is the first time I ever heard a black man play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis." Well, the black pianist tries to explain the black origin of boogie woogie, rockabilly, and rock and roll to this gentleman, but he didn't buy it. But he wanted to buy this black guy a drink. So they went back to the table. He had a beer, the black guy had a cranberry juice, and they began talking. And then the white gentleman says, "You know, this is the first time I ever sat down and had a drink with a black man." Well, the first thing that occurs to the black guy is, this guy is having a night of firsts. And when he asked the white gentleman why - how can that be? - the white gentleman revealed that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Well, this guy was having a night of firsts. My first experience with racism occurred when I was 10 years old, in 1968. My family had just moved to a place called Belmont, Massachusetts, and I was one of two black kids in my entire school. Ten years old in fourth grade. I joined the Cub Scouts, and we had a parade, a march, from Lexington to Concord, Massachusetts, to commemorate the ride of Paul Revere. Somewhere down the parade route, as I was marching with my fellow scouts, I began getting hit by bottles, soda pop cans, rocks and debris from the street by a small group of white spectators off to my right on the sidewalk. I had no idea that I was the only person getting hit until my den mother and other scout leaders came rushing over and huddled over me with their bodies and escorted me out of the danger. And they never explained why this was happening to me. And I had no clue. When I got home, my mom and dad were fixing me up with Band-Aids and Mercuorchrome, and they explained to me why I was the target of these projectiles. At the age of 10, I formed a question in my mind, and that question was, How can you hate me when you don't even know me? So years later, here I am, a college graduate with my degree in music, and I'm sitting at a bar at a table with a member of the KKK. I'd been seeking the answer to that question for years, unable to find it. Now, here's my opportunity. For who better to ask than someone who would join an organization who historically, their premise has been hating those who do not look like them and who do not believe as they believe? Who better to answer that question, How can you hate me when you don't even know me? I persuaded this Klan member to give me the contact information for the leader of the Ku Klux Klan. He reluctantly provided it to me on the condition that I not reveal where I got it from. The Klan leader's name was Roger Kelly. I had my secretary contact Roger Kelly because I decided I wanted to write a book. I wanted to sit down and interview Klan leaders and Klan members all around the country and ask them that question. So I was going to start right there in Maryland, where I currently live. So I had her contact Roger Kelly and not tell him that I was black but ask him if he would consent to sitting down with her boss and giving him an interview. So he agreed. I arranged a hotel room for us to meet in. And when he arrived with his armed bodyguard, they were shocked to see that I was black. And I could see apprehension on them. And I stood up and went like this to show I had nothing in my hands and invited them in. They came in, Mr. Kelly took a seat, and the bodyguard stood at attention to his right. He had his sidearm right here in his holster. And we started this interview process. Everything was going along fine. He let me know that, indeed, I was inferior due to the color of my skin - that made me inferior. But I wasn't there to fight with him, I was there to learn from him where these perceptions came from. Because in order to address something, you have to learn how they got there in the first place. So I'm listening. A little while later into this interview, a strange noise occurred, kind of a (Quack), and we all jumped. And my eyes locked with Roger Kelly's eyes. I knew he had made that noise because I didn't make it. And my eyes were silently asking him, "What did you just do?" Well, his eyes had fixated on mine, and he was silently asking me the same question. The bodyguard had his hand on his gun, looking back and forth between the Klan leader and myself, silently asking, "What did either one of you all just do?" Well, my secretary realized what had happened. She had filled the ice bucket with ice and put cans of soda in there to be hospitable and offer everybody beverages. Well, the ice bucket was sitting on top of the dresser. The ice had begun melting, and the cans of soda cascaded down the ice, and that's what made the noise, and we all began laughing at how ignorant we all were. But this was a teaching moment. I won't say anything was learned at that moment, but a lesson was taught. And that lesson was this: All because some "foreign" - and underscore or highlight the word "foreign" - entity of which we were ignorant, that being the bucket of ice and cans of soda, entered into our little comfort zone via the noise that it made, we became fearful and accusatory of each other. Thus, ignorance breeds fear. If we don't keep that fear in check, that fear, in turn, will breed hatred because we hate those things that frighten us. If we do not keep that hatred in check, that hatred will breed destruction. We want to destroy those things that frighten us and that we hate. But guess what. They may have been harmless, and we were just ignorant. So we saw the whole chain almost unravel to completion had the bodyguard drawn his gun and destroyed either myself or my secretary. So like I said, we all began laughing and carried on with the interview, and there were no more problems. Over time, Mr. Kelly would come down to my house and continue these interviews. He would even have dinner and lunch at my table. Or we would go out and have dinner and lunch. Now, this was somebody who considered himself superior and me inferior. We continued this relationship. He did not invite me to his house. But after a couple of years, he began inviting me to his home. I would see his Klan den, and I'd take some pictures and some more notes for my book. Then he began inviting me to Klan rallies. I'd go to these Klan rallies and watch these Klansmen and Klanswomen in their robes and hoods parade around this big, 20- to 30-foot cross, set it on fire, and it would (Whoosh), and they'd parade around and give all these lectures - take some more pictures and notes. Well, CNN wanted to do a story on this. They knew who I was through music, and they knew who Roger Kelly was through the Klan. So I'm going to show you this clip that was shown every hour for 24 hours on CNN and on HLN all over the world. And I want you to pay particular attention to what Mr. Kelly says. He says that even though he and I would do different things together, it did not change his views on the Klan, because his views on the Klan had been cemented in his mind for years. And then he goes on to say how he believes in separation of the races. But also listen to what he says about respect, and then listen to the commentary at the end that the two CNN anchorpeople give. Show the video please. (Video) [CNN Sunday Morning] Bob Cain: Welcome to this final hour of CNN Sunday morning. I'm Bob Cain, in today for Miles O'Brien. Joie Chen: Good morning to you all. I'm Joie Chen. BC: Friendship can transcend all kinds of boundaries. JC: Just look at us. And two men in the Washington area are showing that even an African American man and a member of the Ku Klux Klan can find common ground. CNN's Carl Rochelle reports. (Piano music) CR: Daryl Davis plays a hot piano. It's part of the show, and it makes him stand out. (Boogie woogie piano music) He also stands out here. Davis is one of the few African Americans you will ever find attending a KKK rally. More than attending, he is welcome. Roger Kelly: I got more respect for that black man than I do you white niggers out there. (Shouting) CR: It's been a tough day for the Klan. Their Maryland rally found many local residents rejecting the message of white separatism. After it's over, Daryl Davis hangs around backstage with his friend, Klan wizard Roger Kelly. (Chatter) It's not unusual for blacks and whites to be friends, but it is unusual to find a black man and a Klan leader chatting pleasantly over an orange soda after a Klan rally. The relationship started over a book Davis was writing. His secretary set up an interview with Roger Kelly but didn't tell him Davis was black. They talked, and talked some more. Davis learning about the Klan; Kelly learning about Davis. RK: We get to know one another, and we do different things, you know. It hasn't changed my views about the Klan, you know, because my views on the Klan's been pretty much cemented in my mind for years. CRF: Kelly and his Klan friends go to hear Davis and his band. (Boogie woogie band music) And Davis goes to their rallies. Daryl Davis: I sat on the front row, and I listened to each Klansman speak. Some things I agreed with; other things I did not agree with. CRF: Davis thinks that his presence promotes badly needed understanding. DD: Hate stems, I believe, from fear, from fear of the unknown, and I think this is all across the board, regardless of whether it's the Klansmen or anything else. CR: But he has no illusions about the Klan. If he did, his friend would be quick to disabuse them. RK: I believe in separation of the races. I believe that's in the best interest of all races. CR: Does he really? Or has friendship transcended the color barrier? Listen to Kelly at a Klan rally. RK: I will follow that man to hell and back because I believe in what he stands for, and he believes in what I stand for. A lot of times we don't agree with everything, but at least he respects me to sit down and listen to me. And I respect him to sit down and listen to him. CR: The strange relationship of a KKK wizard and his black buddy. In Washington, I'm Carl Rochelle, CNN Sunday Morning. BC: Strange. It's a good adjective - strange. JC: Certainly that. (Video ends) DD: Okay. You heard the Klan leader say that he respected me. What's up with that? He's the Klan leader. I'm a black guy. He said, "We may not agree on everything, but at least he respects me to sit down and listen to me, and I respect him to sit down and listen to him. Very important, folks. If you have an adversary, you don't have to respect what they're saying, but respect their right to say it. And have that conversation. We spend too much time talking about each other, at each other, past each other, and not enough time talking with each other. That is respect. Okay? (Applause) Thank you. And as a result of that respect, over time, Mr. Kelly began rethinking his ideology, and that cement that held his ideas together in his mind for so long began to crack and crumble and then fall apart. And then just a few years back, Mr. Kelly decided to give up the Ku Klux Klan - he renounced it and gave me his robe and hood. This is the robe of the Klan leader! (Applause) Right here. This is the same robe you saw him wearing in the video. And of course, this is the hood and mask. Keep in mind, when two enemies are talking, they're not fighting, they're talking. They might be yelling and screaming, but at least they're talking. It's when the talking ceases that the ground becomes fertile for violence. So keep the conversation going. People learn racism through dialogue. Somebody tells them about it. So if you can learn it through dialogue, you can also unlearn it through dialogue. So a black guy walks into a bar, sits down at the piano, and then a conversation starts. (Boogie woogie piano music) Thank you all very much. Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers) That's - Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers) Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers) Thank you.