Episode 08, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and YouTube

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Show notes:  

“I feel that destruction, hatred and fear are all byproducts, all symptoms of ignorance. Ignorance is the nucleus, that's the cancer. If you cure that, all the other things don't materialize.”

Today's interview with Daryl Davis is a conversation about race, courage, curiosity, ignorance, and the power of conversation. Daryl is an African-American musician, author, and activist. Brought up as an “American Embassy Brat,” Daryl’s family lived an international life abroad, mixing with families of other nationalities as his father went from the secret service to the U.S. foreign service. When his family moved to the U.S., 10-year-old Daryl had his first experience with racism. While participating in a Massachusetts Boy Scouts parade in honor of Paul Revere, he was pelted with rocks and bottles from several members of the crowd who watched the parade. He was the only black child among the scouts.

Daryl was more curious than enraged, and he was determined to find out why someone could hate someone “they don’t even know.” Fearless in pursuit of dialogue and reason, Daryl conversed with many members of the Ku Klux Klan, the American white supremacist terrorist hate group, including the “Grand Dragon,” Roger Kelly. What started as a passion project eventually helped many KKK members lose their hate towards people of color.

Daryl believes that to change minds, we need to remove ignorance, and offer a better, more accurate perception of reality. Tune in to learn how his work has helped transform many lives for the better.

About Daryl Davis (from DarylDavis.com):

"Daryl is an international recording artist, actor, and leader of The Daryl Davis Band. He is considered to be one of the greatest Blues & Boogie Woogie and Blues and Rock’n’Roll pianists of all time, having played with The Legendary Blues Band (formerly the Muddy Waters band) and Chuck Berry. As an Actor, Daryl has received rave reviews for his stage role in William Saroyan’s The Time Of Your Life. Daryl has done film and television as well and had roles in the critically acclaimed 5-year HBO television series The Wire."

Time Stamps:

[01:16] Daryl’s background and moving to the U.S.
[06:04] Daryl’s first racist encounter
[12:36] The incidents that led Daryl to dig deeper into understanding racism
[21:36] Meeting Matt Cole the second time
[27:07] How Matt Cole got more and more people into the American Nazi Party
[32:52] Daryl’s first encounter with a KKK member
[42:13] Daryl’s second encounter with a KKK member who had for the first time spoken to a person of color
[48:46] Daryl’s decision to interview Roger Kelly
[59:28] A journey to meet the “Grand Dragon,” Roger Kelly
[01:21:11] Why ignorance breeds hate
[01:34:43] Dan and Daryl discuss a scene from a documentary about Daryl's life, Accidental Courtesy
[01:41:57] Daryl’s closing advice for the listeners
[01:49:16] Daryl and Dan talk about the state of our society today and how it has evolved over the years


“People only know what they know. If they know something to be real, in their mind, it's real. One's perception is one's reality, whatever they perceive becomes their reality, even if it's not accurate.”

“What you do is you offer them a better perception, offer them better perspectives, because if they resonate with one of the perceptions that you've offered, they will change their own reality, because their perception becomes their reality.”

“The first teaching moment would be that we all were human beings in that moment that we heard the noise. Fear is a human emotion. We [Roger Kelly and Daryl] felt the same emotion. We felt fear of each other. Because each one of us thought the other person was doing something ominous, and had posed a threat to one another.”

“[The] second thing that I learned is [that] ignorance breeds fear. We fear those things which we’re ignorant of, those things we don't understand.”

“I feel that destruction, hatred and fear are all byproducts, all symptoms of ignorance. Ignorance is the nucleus, that's the cancer. If you cure that, all the other things don't materialize.”

I don't attack their realities. I just give them other perceptions that make more sense. They resonate with one of those, they change their own reality. And that's how you do it.”

“The best way we all can fight together is, dedicate our time and energy, resources to promoting education and exposure; education and exposure is what cures ignorance.”

“You can't tell them they're wrong. You need to get off this. You've got to show them a better perception. And they will change their own reality.”

Relevant Links:

Books mentioned:

Documentaries mentioned:

People mentioned (quotes from Wikipedia):

  • Martin Luther King Jr. - “(A)n American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the American civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968."
  • George Lincoln Rockwell - “(A)n American neo-Nazi politician. In 1959, he was discharged from the United States Navy because of his political views, and then founded the American Nazi Party."
  • Matt Cole and Martin Kerr - Leaders of the American Nazi party.
  • Jerry Lee Lewis - “(A)n American singer, songwriter, and pianist. Nicknamed the Killer, he has been described as 'rock n' roll's first great wild man and one of the most influential pianists of the twentieth century.'"

Public talk:

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