Produced by Nick van der Kolk and Brendan Baker. A version of this interview originally aired on the excellent NPR/PRX show Snap Judgment.
Photo credit Adrianne Mathiowetz.PLAYLIST
Artist – Title – Album
Laurel Halo – Light and Space –Quarantine
Ben Frost – Killshot + Ben Frost – Stomp – Theory of Machines
Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers – Island in the Stream – Eyes That See in the Dark
Jerry Lee Lewis – End of the Road – Original Golden Hits Vol. 1
Johnny Cash – I Tremble for You – Love
Mr. Moods – The Laws of Gravity – The Nature of Sounds
Ben Frost – Stomp – Theory of Machines
John Cage – Fourth Interlude – Sonatas and Interludes
So Percussion – Strangers All Along – Where (We) Live
Laurel Halo – Light and Space – Quarantine
Jan Jelinek Avec the Exposures – Music to Interrogate By – La Nouvelle Pauvreté
Banabila – Yasar (Salar Session) – Precious Images
Stay Classy –They Call Him Mr. Laws – Upholding Law: The Jazz Jousters take on Hubert Laws
Rick Derringer – Real American (Hulk Hogan Theme) – The Wrestling Album
Ben Frost – Stomp – Theory of Machines
Slim the Chemist – Walk On The Moon –Silence EP
Colleen – Echoes and Coral –Les Ondes Silencieuses
Speaker 2: Topia, from PRX
Daryl Davis: I’m like five or six years old. My father says to me, “Come take a ride with me.” I get in the vehicle and we go and ride out to this person’s house that my father knows. She had dogs. One of her dogs had puppies. She and my father say, “Pick out one. Pick out one.” I get to have a dog. My father had not told my mother. We bring the dog home. Of course, my mom has a fit. She doesn’t want the dog in the house. She locked him outside, et cetera, et cetera. I’m playing with my new dog on the porch.
My mom came to the door to call me to come in for dinner. Then the little dog came running out excited to see her and ran to sniff her ankles or whatever. When the little puppy ran up to her, my mom jumped out of fear. It threw a disc in her back. She was in back pain from that day until she died in 1986. The next morning when I woke up, my mom had gone to the hospital. First thing I go to do is go see my puppy. My puppy was gone. My dad had taken the dog back. I didn’t have it. I cried for days.
I still think about that puppy today. Three or four years later, I’d gone over to this girl’s house, a friend of my mom’s. My mom and her were going shopping and so I was taken over there to be babysat. Her nanny was there, whatever. They had a dog, the German Shepherd. The dog was locked outside on the balcony. The lady specifically told me, “Do not go out there and play with the dog Daryl. The dog is very mean. It will bite.” They left.
The little girl and I are playing in the living room and I said, “Why will your doggy bite me? Why is your doggy so mean?” The little girl said, “My dog is not mean.” Of course, she goes out there and the dog’s licking all over her and all excited to see her because the dog wanted to come in. I figure, “Well, the mom lied to me.” I open the door. That German Shepherd tore me up. The nanny and the cook had to come rushing out and pull the thing off me.
I was warned and I did not heed the warning. I got myself chewed up. That did not change my attitude towards dogs. It changed my attitude towards that particular dog, but I still love dogs.
Nick van der Kolk: From Radiotopia, you’re listening to Love + Radio. I’m Nick van der Kolk. Today’s episode, The Silver Dollar.
Daryl: In 1983, country music had made a resurgence in this country, so I joined a country band. I was the only black guy in the band and consequently, usually the only black guy in many of the places where we played. Well, there was this truck stop at a place called Frederick, Maryland. Truck stop had a restaurant and had a motel. In the bottom of the motel was this lounge called The Silver Dollar Lounge. It was basically an all-white lounge. Black people did not go in there.
Well, here I was in The Silver Dollar Lounge, and for a summer I played there. I came off the bandstand after the first set and I was walking across the dance floor to sit with some of my band mates. This white gentleman, probably in his mid to late 40s, gets up from his table and walks across the bandstand. From behind, puts his arm around my shoulder. I stopped and turned around, look to see who was touching me. He says, “I really like your all’s music. This is the first time I ever heard a black man play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis.”
I had no idea where this guy was coming from. I naively and innocently asked him, “Where do you think Jerry Lee Lewis learned how to play?” “What are you talking about?” “Well, Jerry Lee learned how to play that style from black blues and boogie woogie piano players. That’s where Rockabilly and rock and roll came from.” “Oh no, no, no, no, no, no. Jerry Lee invented that. I never heard no black man play like that until you.” “I know Jerry Lee Lewis personally. He’s a good friend of mine. I’ve known him since I was 13 years old. He’s told me himself where he learned how to play.”
Well, the guy didn’t buy it, but he was fascinated with me and he wanted to buy me a drink. Now, I don’t drink, but I agreed to go back to his table and have a cranberry juice. He says, “You know, this is the first time I ever sat down and had a drink with a black man.” This guy is really having a night of firsts. I asked him, I said, “Why?” He didn’t answer me. He stared at the tabletop and his buddy elbowed him in the ribs and said, “Tell him, tell him, tell him.” Then he says, “I’m a member of the Ku Klux Klan.”
I started laughing. Okay. This guy thinks I’m jerking him around about Jerry Lee Lewis so he’s going to jerk me around with the Klan. While I’m laughing, he goes inside his pocket, pulls out his wallet and hands me his Klan card. His looked like it had a Klansman on horseback and then on the other side was this red circle with a white cross and a red blood drop in the center, which is the Ku Klux Klan insignia. It’s called a MIOAK or a blood drop emblem. I stopped laughing because I recognize that stuff.
You know, this is for real. The hell am I doing sitting at a table with a Klansman? I gave him back his card and we talked about some other things. The guy gave me his phone number. He wanted me to call him anytime I was to come back to this bar with this band because he wanted to bring his buddies, right? His Klan buddies to see this black guy play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis. We were on a rotation at that club every six weeks with other bands.
I’d call the guy like on a Wednesday or a Thursday and say, “Hey man, I’m going to be at The Silver Dollar, come on out.” He’d come and he’d bring his Klansmen and Klanswomen friends. They’d gather around and watch me play. They’d get out on the dance floor and dance. There were some who didn’t want to meet me. They were kind of standoffish, just watch me from afar. I knew it was them. Others were curious and they want to … I mean, they shook my hand and all that kind of stuff.
Anyway, this went on about every six weeks until the end of ’83, at which time I quit the Klan. I mean, I quit the Klan. I quit the band. Get that right. Freudian slip there. Okay. I quit the band and I went back to playing rock and roll and blues and whatever genre was popular in ’84. I lost contact with the guy.
Speaker 5: [inaudible] out there.
Speaker 6: Come on down.
Speaker 7: I think it’s wrong to mix the races.
Speaker 8: You see, the Klan preaches and thrives on violence.
Daryl: This particular shirt here is what’s given to me by a Klanswoman who wore it. It depicts a caricature of Martin Luther King with the cross hairs, the bullseye target on his forehead and it mocks his I have a dream speech. It says, “Our dream came true.”
Daryl: You know?
Daryl: It pretty-
Nick: It’s hard not to have a visceral reaction to it.
Daryl: Yeah. Yeah. It’s pretty despicable. This is what we’re dealing with. This is our country, man. You wonder why I do what I do? I’m not going to ignore it. You know? I mean, there are those out there who will talk the talk, but I’ll walk the walk.
Nick: Did your family or friends ever go, “Daryl, you can’t be doing this. You’re going to get yourself killed.”
Daryl: Of course. Well, yeah. Everybody did. I had this need to do it. Back in the early 1960s, I would attend international schools. Overseas, my classes were filled with people from all over the world, Germany, Nigeria, Russia, Japan, France, Italy. That was how I grew up overseas in the school system. To me, it was just the norm. At the same time that I was being ‘multicultural’ my peers back home here in my own country, the United States, were either going to newly integrated schools or still segregated ones.
Back then it was just black kids and white kids, or, black kids or white kids. I was 10 years old, 1968 in the fourth grade. We’d just returned from overseas and we were living in the town of Belmont, Massachusetts, which is a suburb of Boston. I was one of two black children in the entire school. Well, so all of my friends consequently were white. Many of my guy friends were members of the Cub Scouts and they invited me to join, so I joined the scouts. On scout day we had a march from Lexington to Concord, Massachusetts to commemorate the ride of Paul Revere.
My den mother gave me the American flag to carry. I was the only black scout in this march. Somewhere down the parade route as I’m marching with my fellow scouts, carrying the American flag, I began getting hit by bottles and rocks and soda pop cans that were being thrown by white spectators, some of them over on the sidewalk. It was kids and adults alike. My immediate reaction was, “Those people over there don’t like the scouts.”
I didn’t realize that I was the only scout getting hit until my den mother, my cub master and my pack leader all came back and huddled over me with their bodies and escorted me out of the danger. You know? I kept saying, “Why? Why are they hitting me?” All they would do is go, “Shh.” Move along Daryl. Move along. It’ll be okay.” They never answered my question. When I got home later that day, my mom and dad were cleaning me up and putting band aids on me and asking me, “How did you fall down and get all scrapped up?” I said, “I didn’t fall down.”
I told them what happened. For the first time in my life my parents sat me down and explained to me why I was being targeted this way. Having gone to school with people from all over the world, every color imaginable, it was comprehensible to me that someone who knew absolutely nothing about me would want to inflict pain upon me for no other reason than the color of my skin. They didn’t know anything about me. I hadn’t done anything. I literally thought they were lying to me.
10th grade, 1974, I’m going to school in Rockville, Maryland. We’d just returned from overseas and we had a class called the POTC, which stood for problems of the 20th century. We had a great teacher. He would bring in various people from different walks of life to express their views, oftentimes controversial. Well, on this one particular day, he had the leader of the American Nazi Party come to our class. You cannot do that today in a high school. All this political correctness, which to me is a bunch of bull spit, if I may. Anyway, on this day in 1974, Matt Koehl and his right-hand lieutenant came to my school.
Matt Koehl: I believe in God’s call to race, to do his work in his dream. The Jew is using the black as muscle against you and you don’t have a chance. Well, what are you going to do about it? Just sit there while-
Daryl: They stood at the front of the class espousing all these views about white supremacy.
Nick: How many black kids were in the class?
Daryl: In the class, just me and another guy.
Daryl: Then Matt Koehl looked at me and pointed at me and pointed at the other black guy and said, “We’re going to ship you back to Africa.” I lived in Africa. I lived there for 10 years on assignment with the U.S. Embassy. You’re not shipping me back there. He made a sweeping motion with his finger and said, “And all you Jews out there, you’re going back to Israel.” I’m 15 years old and I’m just sitting here looking at this fool. Somebody piped up and said, “What happens if they don’t go?”
Matt Koehl said, “Oh, they have no choice. If they do not leave voluntarily, they will be exterminated in the upcoming race war.” That was the very first time that I’d heard the term race war. He went on and on and then the class was over. From that day forward, that was the turning point in my life. I began collecting everything I could get my hands on that dealt with white supremacy, black supremacy, antisemitism, the Nazis in Germany, the neo-Nazis over here, the Ku Klux Klan, things like that.
Music is my profession, but learning more about racism on all sides of the tracks was my obsession. The question that I had back then was, how can you hate me when you don’t even know me? That question stayed with me. 1988. A friend of mine was a performing up in Baltimore. My girlfriend and I-
Nick: Your white girlfriend.
Daryl: Yeah. Dashed up to Baltimore as quickly as we could, Sunday evening, about 12:40, after midnight. Right? There were signs that were posted that said, “Customer parking only. Violators will be towed.” Okay. We got out, walked across the street to the club. The guy was just finishing up. He was on his last song, just finishing up. Went up there, shook hands. Greeted him. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time. Chatted for about five minutes. Went back out. This tow truck pulls onto the parking lot.
I run up and tap on his window as he’s backing up and say, “Hey, hey, hey, that’s my car. I’m leaving now.” He ignored me and backed right up against my car. He gets out, he says, “I’m taking the car.” I said, “Well, there are other cars here. Why don’t you take somebody else’s car? I’m here now. I’m leaving.” He goes, “Well, I’m taking your car.” I’m arguing with the guy and he’s saying, “Well, you can give me $80 and I’ll let you go. I say like, “Well, I don’t have $80.”
My girlfriend’s saying, “Well, here, I can write you a check or give you my quick …” “No. It has to be cash.” There were two cop cars sitting on the parking lot. It was a lady cop and a male cop, both white. They saw us park. They walk over and they were like, “So what’s going on here?” As though they didn’t know. The cop looks at the guy and says, “So what do you want to do?” The guy says, “Well, I told him to give me $80. I’ll let them go.” The male cops says, “Well, I suggest you give him $80.”
I said, “Look, I got over $10,000 worth of equipment in my car.” Which I did, my PA system, keyboard or drums or whatever else. I said, “You can’t take my car.” The male cop grabbed me and slammed me up against the back of my car. The lady cop automatically kneed me in my ribs and when I bent over, they grabbed my arms and handcuffed me. My girlfriend said, “Hey, hey, why are you doing this to him?” The lady cop grabbed my girlfriend and threw her down on the ground and called her a whore and a bitch.
They handcuffed her too and they called the paddy wagon. I said, “You all have no right to do this to us.” Paddy wagon driver says, “Oh, you think you want to be a cop? You can tell me my rights.” Takes off his badge and throws it at me and it strikes me in the chest. He goes, “Go ahead, pin it on.” Now, of course I can’t pin anything on. I’m cuffed behind my back. He reaches in, picks up his badge off the floor and says, “I didn’t think you wanted to be a cop.”
Nick: Was that was an eye-opening experience for her?
Daryl: Oh, absolutely. It was. Sure, she had experienced racism dating me. Some of her friends didn’t like it, but then going to jail for it definitely took a toll on the relationship and we broke up. She made a statement. She would never date another black person. Not because she became racist or anything like that, but it was just too hard. She was going to run away from the problem. While she did not accept racism and was a strong advocate against it, she was going to give up.
I want an answer to my question. How can you hate me when you don’t even know me? I’m going to interview all these races. I need to write a book. I chose the Klan because, man, I could’ve chose the Nazis, but I had made some kind of relationship with this Klansman, so I’m going to track down that Klansmen from The Silver Dollar Lounge. He had moved. He did not have a phone, but he had an address. Unannounced, I went by his apartment one evening. Okay?
I knocked on the door in this hallway and he opens the door, says, “Daryl, what are you doing here?” He steps out into the hallway and looks up and down the hallway to see if I brought anybody with me. Well, when he stepped out of his apartment, I stepped in. He turns around, he comes back in. He goes, “What’s going on man? Are you still playing? What’s going on?” “Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I’m still playing man, but listen, I need to talk to you about the Klan.” “The Klan?” “Yeah. You’re a member, right?” “Well, I was.”
Nick: Why did he quit?
Daryl: You really want to know?
Daryl: Okay. The Klan would have a rally on every Labor Day on top of Stone Mountain in Georgia. Well, he had been selected by the leader of the Klan group here in Maryland to go to Stone Mountain to represent the Maryland Knights and Ku Klux Klan. He’d been given some money to go down there, come back and report to the chapter. Well, he decided to take the money and go to WWF and see Hulk Hogan wrestle. He went to wrestling and spent the money and lied about going to the Klan gathering and he got found out, so he got banished from the Klan. All right?
At least he got to see Hulk Hogan. That’s his idol. He said he’d quit and he went into this long story. Well, I said, “Where’s all your Klan stuff?” He says, “Well, they came and got it.” Apparently, he had not paid off his robe and hood and they came and repoed it. I said, “Do you know Roger Kelly?” “Yeah. I know Roger. Roger was my Grand Dragon.” In Klan terminology they called the state leader of the Grand Dragon. I asked him to hook me up with the Grand Dragon. He said, no, he couldn’t do that.
I said, “But wait a minute, you’re out of the Klan now.” He goes, “It doesn’t matter Daryl.” Well, I begged and pleaded with him to give me Mr. Kelly’s information. 20 minutes later, he finally consented on the condition that I not reveal where I got his home address and his home phone number. He warned me. He said, “Daryl, do not go to Roger Kelly’s house. Roger Kelly will kill you.” I called my secretary who booked my band. Mary and worked here out of my house.
I had Roger Kelly’s phone number. I gave it to her Monday morning when she came down. Said, “Here, give Roger Kelly a call and tell him you’re working for somebody who’s writing a book on the Klan. Would he consent to sitting down and being interviewed? Do not tell Mr. Kelly that I’m black, unless he asks. If he asks, don’t lie to him. Don’t allude to it. Don’t give him any reason to ask.” I had her call and he agreed. We set up the meeting for the motel right above The Silver Dollar Lounge.
At 5:15 on a Sunday afternoon, Mary and I got there early. I gave Mary some money and I sent her down the hall to get some soda and put it in the ice bucket so I would be able to offer my guest a beverage. I had no idea what this man was going to do when he saw me. Was he going to freak and attack me because I’m black? Was he going to say, “I’m not talking to you,” and turn around and leave? Or, was he going to come in and be interviewed like he had agreed to do?
Right on time, knock, knock, knock on the door. Mary hops up, runs around the corner and opens the door. In walks the Grand Nighthawk. Nighthawk in Klan terminology means bodyguard. He’s wearing military camouflage fatigues, the Ku Klux Klan insignia, and on his right hip, he had a gun. I was not armed. My secretary was not armed. Mr. Kelly is walking directly behind this guy in a dark blue suit. The Nighthawk turns the corner and upon seeing me, he freezes instantly.
Mr. Kelly bumped into his back and they stumbled around trying to regain their balance, looking all over the room like, “Ah-ah, something’s wrong here.” I get up I walk over. I said, “Hi Mr. Kelly.” Put my hand out. “My name is Daryl Davis.” He shook my hand. So far so good. I said, “Come on in. Come on in.” The Nighthawk shook my hand. Mr. Kelly sat down. I’m like, “Yes. He’s going to do it.” The Nighthawk stood at attention to his right. Right before I could sit down, Mr. Kelly says to me, “Mr. Davis, do you have any form of identification?” “Yes.”
I reached into my wallet and pulled out my driver’s license and gave it to him. He says, “Oh, you live on Flack Street in Silver Spring.” Why is this man reciting my street address? Well, now that had me a little concerned, but I didn’t want to let him know that he had slightly unnerved me or rattled me, but I wanted to let him know that don’t screw around. I said, “Yes, Mr. Kelly, that is where I live and you live at.” I named his house number and his street. We started doing the interview and everything was going along smooth.
I mean, every now and then somebody might pound the table with their fist to make a point. Every time Mr. Kelly would say, “Well, Mr. Davis, the Bible says.” I’d reach down into my bag and pull out the Bible and hand it to him to show me where it said blacks and whites had to be separate, or if my cassette ran out of tape, I’d reach down into the bag and pull out my cassette and refresh the recorder. Every time I reached down, the Nighthawk would reach up to his gun.
A little over an hour into this interview, there was a strange noise like [inaudible]. I immediately jumped up out of my chair and slammed my hands on the table. My mind was racing like 90 miles an hour, trying to think, “What did I just say? What did I just do to cause him to go off and make some weird noise?” All I could hear in the back of my head was that former Klansman saying, “Daryl do not fool with Roger Kelly. Roger Kelly will kill you.”
I’m getting ready to come across that table, grab the Nighthawk and Mr. Kelly and slam them both down to the ground and disarmed the Nighthawk. My eyes locked with Roger Kelly’s eyes. My eyes were clearly saying, “What did you just do?” I could read his eyes. What did you just do? The Nighthawk had his hand on his gun, looking back and forth between both of us like, “What did either one of y’all just do?” Mary, she was over here sitting on top of the dresser. She realized what happened and then it made that same noise again.
Some of the ice cubes in the ice container melted, in the ice bucket melted the cans of soda shifted. We all began laughing at how ignorant we were. We continue with the interview and there were no more problems. At the end, I shook their hands and thanked them for their time. Mr. Kelly gave me one of his Klan cards and he said, “Keep in touch.” I was thinking to myself. I didn’t say it but I was thinking to myself, “What? I didn’t come here to make friends with the Klan.
I came here to find out how can you hate me when you don’t know me?” He didn’t like me. He told me as much. On the way back home, I said to Mary in my car, I said, “I rather like Roger Kelly. I like him as a person. I do not like what Roger Kelly stands for.” I found that we had more in common than we did in contrast. Basically what we had in contrast was how we each felt about race. Other than that, we had a lot of things in common. We need to get drugs off the street.
We need better education for kids, things like that we can agree upon. I said to her, I said, “You know what? I will keep in contact with the guy.” Whenever I had a gig up in his county, I’d call him and say, “Hey man, I’m playing here or playing there, come on out.” He’d come. He’d bring the Nighthawk with him but he’d come. Sometimes I would invite him down here. He’d come down here. He’d sit right over there on the couch and I’d sit over here in this chair and we would talk. He’d bring the Nighthawk.
The Nighthawk would sit next to him. Sometimes the Nighthawk would twirl his gun on his finger because he’s bored while Mr. Kelly and I talked. Sometimes I would invite over some of my Jewish friends, some of my black friends, some of my other white friends, just to engage Mr. Kelly in conversation with somebody other than me. I didn’t want him to think that I was some exception. I wanted him to talk to other people. After a while, he began coming down here by himself.
No Nighthawk. He trusted me that much. After a couple of years, he became Imperial Wizard. National leader, Imperial Wizard. He began inviting me to his house.
Bob Cain : Welcome to this final hour of CNN Sunday morning. I’m Bob Cain in today for Miles O’Brien.
Joie Chen: Good morning to you all. I’m Joie Chen.
Bob Cain : Friendship can transcend all kinds of boundaries.
Joie Chen: Just look at us. Two men in Washington area are showing that even an African American man and a member of the Ku Klux Klan can find common ground. CNN’s Carl Rochelle reports.
Carl Rochelle: Davis is one of the few African Americans you will ever find attending a KKK rally. More than attending, he is welcome.
Roger Kelly: I got more respect for that black man than I do you white niggers out here. We get to know one another. We do different things. It hasn’t changed my views about the Klan because my views on the Klan has been pretty much cemented in my mind for years. I believe in separation of the races. I believe that’s in the best interest of all races. I will follow that man to hell and back because I believe in what he stands for and he believes in what I stand for.
A lot of times we don’t agree with everything but at least he respects me to sit down and listen to me and I respect him to sit down and listen to him.
Carl Rochelle: The strange relationship of a KKK wizard and his black buddy.
Daryl: He said that he respected me, the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He said, “We may not agree on everything, but at least he respects me to sit down and listen to me and I respect him to sit down and listen to him.” The most important thing that I learned was that while you are actively learning about someone else, you are passively teaching them about yourself. All right? If you have an adversary, an opponent with an opposing point of view, give that person a platform, allow them to air that point of view, regardless of how extreme it may be.
Believe me, I’ve heard some things so extreme at these rallies they’ll cut you to the bone. Give them a platform. You challenge them, but you don’t challenge them rudely or violently. You do it politely and intelligently. When you do things that way, chances are they will reciprocate and give you a platform. He and I would sit down and listen to one another. Over a period of time that cement that he talked about that held his ideas together began to get cracks in it.
Then it began to crumble and then it fell apart. Then a few years ago, Roger Kelly quit the Ku Klux Klan. He no longer believes today what he said on that video tape. Okay? When he quit the class he gave me his robe and hood. This is the robe of the Imperial Wizard. When the three Klan leaders here in Maryland, Roger Kelly, Robert White and Chester Doles … I became friends with each one of them. When the three Klan leaders left the Klan and became friends of mine, that ended the Ku Klux Klan in the state of Maryland.
Today, there is no more Ku Klux Klan in the state of Maryland. They’ve tried to revive it every now and then, but it immediately falls apart. Sometimes different Klan groups from Pennsylvania or Virginia, neighboring states might come and hold a rally try to get a chapter started, but it’s never taken off.
Nick: Do you think there’s a danger at all when you are up on stage with a Klan member that there’s some sort of tacit approval happening that he can point to you and be like, “Hey, this black guy, we’re cool so therefore my separatist beliefs are right.”
Daryl: Some of them might feel that way. Yeah, sure. Now, I know where I stand and I never let it be questioned. They know that I do not approve of separatism or supremacy or whatever, but I have no problem sitting there shaking their hands, posing for pictures with them but I maintain my beliefs. I respect their right to express theirs, whether I agree with them or not. In this country, we have the right to hate. We don’t have the right to hurt.
Nick: You ever had a case where someone heard about your story or read your book, who came up to you and said, “I really love what you’re doing.” Then you talk to them some more and then you are like, “No, no, no, wait a minute. They don’t really get what I’m getting at.” Has there ever been a case like that?
Daryl: Yeah. That very same thing happened last summer. I walked into this honkytonk. I was the only black person in that place. When I walked in people all of a sudden sat up straight and looked at me and like, “What’s he doing here?” Now, of course the musicians, they recognized me. They knew me. They’d asked me when I sat down, “Hey, you want to sit in and do a few numbers with us?” I said, “Sure.” I got applause. I went back. This guy comes over to me and he says, “They said your name is Daryl Davis so you know so and so and so and so.”
He was naming the Imperial Wizard and the Grand Dragon. He says, “I quit as well. We’ve got to stick together.” I said, “Yeah.” Then he goes on to say, “We’ve got to get these.” He used a derogatory term to express Hispanic people. “Get them out of here.” He didn’t get it. Hey, you know, well, maybe one race at a time.
Nick: What about any well-meaning white liberals?
Daryl: There are a lot of those. There are a lot of well-meaning black liberals, but you know what? Again, when all they do is sit around and preach to the choir, it does absolutely no good. If you’re not a racist, it doesn’t do any good for me to meet with you and sit around and talk about how bad racism is.
Nick: You’re very focused on these very extreme groups. I wonder if there is a danger with focusing on that kind of extreme hate group that allows people to be like, “Well, that’s not me. Those are those crazy racists.” That they don’t look into themselves.
Daryl: Yeah. Well, we always do that because we always try to separate ourselves from those who are being judged or viewed in a negative light, but they don’t start dealing with it until it happens to them. That’s human nature.
Nick: Have you ever gotten criticism from black folks or other people?
Daryl: Of course, absolutely. Now, black people who are friends of mine, who know me, understand where I’m coming from. Some black people who have not heard me interviewed or who have not read my book, some of them jump to conclusions and pre-judge me just like the Klan. I’ve been called Uncle Tom. I’ve been called an Oreo. I had one guy from an NAACP branch chew me up one side and down the other saying, “We’ve worked hard to get 10 steps forward. Here you are sitting down with the enemy having dinner and you’re putting us 20 steps back.”
I pull up my robes and hoods and say, “Look, this is what I’ve done to put a dent in racism. I’ve got robes and hoods hanging in my closet by people who’ve given up that belief because of my conversations of sitting down to dinner and they gave it up. How many robes and hoods have you collected?” Then they shut up.
Nick: That’s it for Love + Radio. The show featured Daryl Davis, whose book we link to on our website, loveandradio.org. The episode was produced by myself, Nick van der Kolk, and Brendan Baker. We are a part of Radiotopia from PRX, which I’ve been explaining to friends is like an indie music label for podcasts. It’s made possible with support from the Knight Foundation and MailChimp who celebrate creativity, chaos and teamwork. Don’t forget call the anonymous Love + Radio Secrets Hotline, like this listener just did.
Speaker 14: I’m a soccer mom, but it’s not soccer my kid plays. He plays another sport. Anyway, there is a secret about me that no one in my life knows except for one person that actually worked with me back when I was working a particular job that no one knows that I had. Between the years of 2004 and 2005, I worked as an escort. I’m married now and not even my husband knows, and it bothers me a lot. It feels good to be able to say it to people that don’t know me and that hopefully aren’t judging me.
If anybody else is hearing this on the podcast, you shouldn’t judge people for their past decisions because at the time I was a single mom and it was really easy money and it freed me up to spend lots of time with my kids. As I said, nobody else knew what I was doing because I just said I did internet work. Yeah.
Nick: To get your own secret off your chest. Call (641) 715-3900, then 555403#. Thanks for listening.
Speaker 1: Radio-
Speaker 2: Topia, from PRX.