daryl davis converts kkk
Mission

The black Christian who converts white supremacists by loving them

Whenever white supremacists march to proclaim their Europid purity and superior cranial virtue, they are usually met with an equal and opposite force of scorn and condemnation: protest meets counter-protest; hate meets hate. The result so often is violence and injury, if not death. You can quibble over whether neo-Nazis or Antifa are the more extreme; whether to be anti-black is more evil than those who are anti whoever offends them. Ultimately, it is angry people railing against more angry people; man throwing Molotov cocktails at man; woman spitting venom at woman. And so hate stokes hate; punching and kicking breeds window-smashing and car-burning. The bigots, racists and phobes can shout their disgust, but ‘We the people’ can break bones, too: just “punch a Nazi in the mouth” or ransack his house because “property destruction does not equate to violence“. To hate is to curse, and persecution is murder.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you‘ (Mt 5:44).

There is a black Christian musician by the name of Daryl Davis. He has spent three decades befriending members of Ku Klux Klan, and hundreds have abandoned their white supremacist views because of him. He doesn’t set out to convert them: he goes to their rallies, has dinner with them, listens to them, and talks to them. Instead of protesting and yelling, he gets to know them, and asks: “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me? Look at me and tell me to my face why you should lynch me.”

And, of course, they can’t: over time, the white supremacists look into the black man’s eyes, and they see an equal human person.

Daryl Davis received some coverage in the UK media last year. The Daily Mail had a great spread on him: ‘Killing hatred with kindness‘:

Daryl said: ‘Music absolutely played a massive role in bridging many gaps in the racial divides I would encounter. Once when I was performing in a predominantly white venue, a white man approached me on my break and put his arm around me and exclaimed, “This is the first time I’ve ever heard a black man play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis.”

…’He was curious and wanted to learn more about me. It was then revealed to me by him that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Over time, he and I became good friends. He ended up leaving the KKK.’

His mission strategy is steeped in wisdom and knowledge:

In fact, I know more about the KKK than most Klan members know about their own organisation. Knowledge, information, wit, and the way you disseminate these attributes can often prove to be a more disarming weapon against an enemy or some with whom your ideology is in conflict, than violence or lethal weapons.

…He said: ‘It’s a wonderful thing when you see a light bulb pop on in their heads or they call you and tell you they are quitting.

‘I never set out to convert anyone in the Klan. I just set out to get an answer to my question: “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?”

‘I simply gave them a chance to get to know me and treat them the way I want to be treated. They come to their own conclusion that this ideology is no longer for them. I am often the impetus for coming to that conclusion and I’m very happy that some positivity has come out of my meetings and friendships with them.

Curiously, the Daily Mail made no mention of his Daryl Davis’s Christian faith, though the Independent did:

A lot of the Chicago-born Christian’s discussions and friendships with KKK members, as seen in his 2016 film ‘Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America’, surround music…

Now why would the Mail omit to mention that Daryl Davis’s inspiration is Christ, who sat down with lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors and other outcasts? Isn’t breaking bread together more productive than marching and yelling? Isn’t a person’s ideology more effectively challenged and changed by turning their eyes to the light so that they may see the truth for themselves, rather than by ramming your car into a crowd of those who curse and hate you? Are we not commanded to take the time to love our neighbour (months, years), instead of berating him in our pious sermons (half an hour)?

Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise‘ (Lk 10:36f).

Your neighbour is the leprous Alt-Right, the KKK and the white supremacist; not just the congenial anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobia, anti-capitalist Antifa.  As President Trump said, there really are “some very fine people on both sides. It’s just a case of bothering to love them enough to help them become better people. If a Christian musician can rescue more than 200 souls from racist bigotry over pizza and beer, why can’t a CofE bishop see that a “scathing attack” is not going to foster peace or reconcile anyone to anything?

You don’t transform the closed inner mind with pity and scorn, or change the sinful heart with denunciation and contempt. But it’s an awful lot easier, isn’t it?