An African American Confronts the Klan in Accidental Courtesy

An African American Confronts the Klan in Accidental Courtesy, by Kenneth Morefield.

When someone Daryl Davis has befriended leaves the Ku Klux Klan, he often gives Davis the robe he wore as a member of that group. Over the years, Davis, by his own account, has amassed dozens of these retired jerseys of hate. Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America, which premiered this week at SXSW, chronicles Davis’s attempts to impact America by changing the hearts and minds of one racist at a time.

Davis goes to Klan rallies. He has invited Klansmen to his home and visited them. He calls some of them “friend” even as they call him inferior. In one moving segment, the film recounts how Davis met the daughters of an incarcerated Klan member at the airport and drove them to the prison so that they could visit their father. Eventually the family noticed that none of the man’s Klan colleagues were serving or loving them as much as Davis was. Their ideology of hate collapsed in the face of undeserved compassion. …

Not everyone admires Davis’s methodology. In one of Accidental Courtesy’s most complex scenes, Davis is confronted by a trio of African American community activists at a Baltimore establishment. They denigrate his work, questioning whether it does anything to confront the infrastructure of racism or help those who are suffering under it. In a rare instance of escalating rhetorical provocation, Davis calls them “ignorant.” Their leader refuses to shake hands.

When filmmaker Matt Ornstein asks Davis if he feels “disconnected” from black millennials, Davis observes that just as Klansmen hate other whites who have sold out more than they do blacks, so too the anger in black community is often more fierce when directed towards other blacks who aren’t in perfect solidarity with the group.

hat-tip Matthew