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Quest for Conversion: A Piece on Daryl Davis

Bella Nadler, Staff Writer

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Piano player Daryl Davis has morphed from a musical icon-who has with historical legends such as Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis- to a political icon. Through his unique approach to persuading those with opposing views, Daryl Davis has made a habit of befriending Klu Klux Klan members. Davis has chipped away at the deeply ingrained Klan ideology of 200 Klan members through insightful and trivial discussion. Davis has brought a new perspective to political activism by acting as a friend, not a negotiator.

“Accidental Courtesy” is a documentary based on the story of Daryl Davis. His controversial methodology has caused many people to misunderstand his teachings. Yet, in his 20 years of activism, he has not lost hope for the future. To me, Daryl Davis is beyond influential.

Daryl Davis welcome discussions and entertains a respectful engagement in which both parties give each other a platform to speak their mind openly. This mutual respect allows for viewpoint to be shared, and, while they may not be synonymous, they have a place. To Davis there is no growth without healthy disagreements.

“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.”

Davis never thought of his race as a defining factor. Throughout his childhood, Daryl was educated at international schools with an ethnically diverse group of people. At age ten, his family settled in a small suburb in Boston, Massachusetts where he was one of two black kids in the school he attended. He was asked to join the Boy Scouts by some of his friends and during the statewide Boy Scout march, he was chosen to carry the American flag.People on the sidelines threw things at him and he remembers thinking to himself: “These people must not like the Boy Scouts.” It was only when his fellow Scouts formed a protective barrier around him that he realized he was the only target. Davis was the only black kid in the whole march.

Davis is unlike any other activist. Mending the systemic racism in our country can be achieved through unique methods like Davis’, where ideology is broken down. Implementation of laws that limit freedom of speech does not remove the problem and instead stifled any ideological growth. Stripping the rights of free speech to members of hate groups undermines the basic principles of American government and beliefs. The Ku Klux Klan and other groups have the right to exist, just as much as any other organization. Davis allows the opposition to have a voice but still unrelentingly challenges their beliefs.

Open discussions and freedom of thought are essential to our society and seem to have gotten lost in the chaos of the 21st century. We are still mending the damage that dates back hundreds of years. The bloody wound of our history will never heal if we only cover it with a Band-Aid. Instead, we must take a page and make a positive change in society. The social construction of race needs to be healed. Through learning from Daryl Davis and chipping away at racist ideologies, we can finally rend to the harm that has continuously tainted our society.

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Quest for Conversion: A Piece on Daryl Davis