ARLINGTON, Va. - The Ku Klux Klan is one of the most infamous and oldest hate groups in the country. But one black man is being credited with befriending several members and convincing them to leave the group.
On Monday night, Daryl Davis, a musician, actor and an author, spoke to a packed house at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre in Arlington. He explained that over the years, he has sought to understand the ideology of the members of the Ku Klux Klan.
He has written a book called Klan-destine Relationships about his years of seeking the answer to this question - how can you hate me when you don't even know me?
Davis detailed his story about how he became friends with Roger Kelly, the head of the KKK in Maryland years ago. Kelly has since left the Klan.
Regarding the current political climate where racial tensions are flaring, Davis said he sees this as a valuable opportunity in the country right now.
"This is the best thing that has happened to this country because we have been so much in denial of racism in this country, xenophobia and all these kinds of things," Davis said. "Our current political climate is bringing all these things out. Now we can no longer turn a blind eye to it. We have to address it and people are beginning to have those conversations, come together, talk about it, and that is what we need. Because talking about race in this country for a long time has been a taboo. Now that taboo has been forced to be lifted."
Davis said dozens of Klan members left the group after he met and talked with them over the years. He was able to become friends with many former Klansmen because he was willing to sit down and listen to them. Whether he agreed or disagreed with them, he said he would challenge people politely and try to understand and ask questions - not to have a debate.
Davis' story is also the subject of a new documentary called "Accidental Courtesy" that was released a few weeks ago.