“If someone is willing to sit down and talk with you, regardless of how extreme they are…there’s an opportunity to plant a seed.”
-Daryl Davis, Anti-Racism Activist
Imagine an African American…ANY African American not only actively reaching out to – but genuinely befriending active members of the Ku Klux Klan. How do you feel when you see this picture above…much less when you learn it’s 100% genuine?
Before you read further there are two points I want to make crystal clear.
- WALK THE RIDGE does NOT condone or support any type of hatred, violence, hate groups, prejudice, or actions taken to harm, belittle or denigrate others. We are an initiative and human practice that individuals, employee teams, and college students learn, benefit from and share through others.
- This article can become a tremendous stepping-stone in your ability to embrace and practice meaningful tools and change. I implore you to read it through, as well as to take some time to watch the embedded video. Share this post with others in your personal and professional life.
WHO IS DARYL DAVIS?
Daryl Davis (b.1958) is an R&B musician who made a name for himself playing with the likes of Chuck Berry, Bruce Hornsby, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Apart from his musical career, he has perhaps become even more well-known as a unique anti-racism activist and advocate.
Davis has employed a very unique approach toward taking on racism. He has gone into the proverbial heart of darkness, to seek out, meet with, humanize, and genuinely befriend many active members of the Ku Klux Klan.
And that approach has led to amazing results – with more than 200 active national and state Klan leaders as well as rank-and-file members turning in their robes – 60 of which Davis has kept. Surprisingly, a number of ‘converts’ have thereafter decided to take an active role in themselves as Klan de-programmers, who speak and reach out to others to create similar change.
I encourage you to take time to watch Daryl in this interview, courtesy of Amanpour & Co. He inspires through his genuine intent.
Now, I want to share with you some of Davis’ more powerful beliefs and interview statements. Keep in mind, this is someone who doesn’t simply share cliches and platitudes, he LIVES and PRACTICES them with prenominal results.
DAVIS: “The cure for ignorance is education. You fix the ignorance, there’s nothing to fear. If there’s nothing to fear, there’s nothing to hate.”
Davis is not only intelligent, but he clearly practiced various levels of emotional intelligence and mindfulness before these terms and actions become en vogue. He also recognizes that in and of themselves, Klan robes and symbols do not of themselves cause fear, hate, and disdain from our end. It’s our own personal belief system around the power that these items carry that cause our resulting feeling to happen.
He further recognized that listening to and learning from others should come first in any type of communication within differences. Because if THEIR actions are based on beliefs that are based on falsities, then gaining awareness about and thereafter ‘defanging’ these falsities, can over time, have an ability to switch belief systems and resulting future behavior.
DAVIS: “I prove that I’m their friend…and that they don’t have anything to fear from me.”
What Davis clearly understood and utilized is the same purpose and goal that we empower others in, with our solutions and practice of WALKING THE RIDGE.
Metaphorically, ‘the ridge’ is a shared place of conversation and exchange, where one brings genuine willingness to listen to, learn from, and show respect for another human being – irrespective of their views or opinions. Keeping in mind that you are not necessarily respecting someone’s views or opinions, but you are employing respect within letting them freely share them.
When you Walk The Ridge, you DO NOT have to compromise or even lose your truth and beliefs. You also should not have to hide the fact that you disagree with others. Being in the ridge is all about HOW you welcome others. In the case of Davis, he creates a ‘safe space’ or a place of truth for others to fear less, freely share and gain comfort.
Let’s be clear on this. When people trust you, they have less to fear from you – even in known disagreement. It also means there is a greater opportunity, though not always, that they may convey a level or willingness to listen, learn, and respect back – via the Law of Reciprocity.
DAVIS: “How can you hate me if you don’t even know me?”
This was the fundamental question that served as the impetus for Davis to take the approach that he did. Unlike other African-American children, he grew up overseas and attended schools that were highly diverse with children of other races and backgrounds. By the time he came back to the states, he couldn’t understand why people used skin color as a sole means of judging and assuming the heart and mindset of others.
Flash into today’s polarized times. Though we would never equate today’s blaming, shaming, shunning, and triggering microaggressions with the violence and killing of the KKK, the principle of prejudging someone before you often get to know them is the same. How many times to we receive, witness, or even give others incivility because they are a known Republican, Democrat, a supporter for the Second Amendment or Planned Parenthood, or they are an empowered Millennial or an older white man who serves as a company leader?
By focusing on the characteristics of individuals, rather than their group identity, we can maneuver around segregating perceptions of out-groups that drive us apart rather than bring us together. But it’s NOT easy – as many of us develop habits of group-labeling, as a means of identification and self-protection.
Civil discourse is an incredibly powerful tool for change. Its impact can, as Daryl Davis put in practice, literally cut to the core of who people are and bring about massive, positive change. Civil discourse and civility as a whole happen on an individual basis – and then spreads through a practice employed in healthier engagements and conversations.
This doesn’t make Davis 100% effective – because not everyone is going to be welcoming, or welcome change over time. He certainly had to go through stress, pain, and challenge to get to his results of the more than 60 robes and hats of former KKK leaders in his home. But he also extended himself to be a genuine friend to others – without them having to necessarily return the favor.
The point here is one that we at WALK THE RIDGE strive to bring to individuals, employee teams, and students through our remote solutions. A set of cutting-edge programs that are meant to connect individually to viewers, who thereafter utilize a greater set of skills, dialogue techniques and habits to interact through differences of opinions, views, and beliefs, with others. Civil discourse doesn’t happen because we ‘call for’, ‘pray for’, or sign a petition on it. It’s a powerful soft skill that so many humans don’t have…but can embrace and be empowered by.
As Davis clearly shows us all, there is a big difference between TALKING about change vs. WALKING your change.