"Transcend and include... this is the self-transcending drive of the Kosmos—to go beyond what went before and yet include what went before... to open into the very heart of Spirit-in-action." Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if a group of people somewhere were for something and against nothing?" Ernest Holmes

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Black Man Befriends the Klan

Extreme dialog
Daryl Davis is a black musician based in Washington whose exuberant piano playing has been compared to that of Jerry Lee Lewis. Davis made it his life mission to understand members of the Ku Klux Klan. He set up interviews with Klan leaders around the country for his book, Klan Destine Relationships, and only upon his arrival at the interviews did his subjects learn he was black. Under extremely dangerous conditions, he worked earnestly to understand, asking questions like, “Why do you consider multiracial children to be inferior?” These questions elicited not only blatant prejudice and misinformation, but also genuine concerns by working class whites that affirmative action cut into their fair share of the pie, and that they would lose their jobs if they even expressed their concerns.

Many of the Klansmen Davis met this way were so taken aback, and then moved by his willingness to dialogue with them, that they eventually surrendered their Klan membership and presented their robes to Davis. Several became his friends. Davis has received numerous peace awards for his work, but he has also been criticized by both sides. Some Klan members who cooperated with him received threats from other Klansmen. And some reviewers condemned Davis for writing a book that puts a human face on the Klan.

A mutant from the future
I personally was so moved and astonished by his book that I invited Davis to dinner where Andy and I found him to be warm, forthright, and absolutely genuine. We liked him a lot. He is just a simple guy, no big theories or spiritual path; he gave up being a deacon at his church because he found it too dogmatic. But he had a quality of undefendedness that raised the bar on my sense of what’s possible for human beings. It was as if he were an X-Man—a mutant from the future with extra powers, or perhaps like someone from another realm. His approach wasn’t exactly to “turn the other cheek”; it was to offer to buy the guy a cup of coffee. When I asked Daryl the secret of his success he said, “You have to start by listening to your adversaries. Once you find any common ground, it becomes easier to tackle the major differences.”

Ken Wilber's integral theory tells me it's impossible to dialog across levels of development. But dialog within levels can produce amazing results. Give me 10,000 more like Daryl, strategically placed around the globe, and I’ll give you world peace in 10 years, —at least, insofar as it’s possible to attain peace in this realm.

Excerpted from my book, Wicked and Evil Isn't That Bad

2 comments:

Tre Lawrence said...

Wow, wow, wow!

Interesting story... the sheer audacity warms my heart.

Teri Murphy said...

Glad you liked it Tre. Good luck on your book.