Black Musician, Former Imperial Wizard of the KKK, and Great Friends

Image of Daryl Davis on the TEDxNaperville stage
Daryl Davis on the TEDxNaperville stage
Image of Daryl Davis with Robert White’s police uniform
Daryl Davis with Robert White’s police uniform

It was inconceivable to me that someone who had never laid eyes on me, never spoke to me, knew absolutely nothing about me would want to inflict pain upon me for no other reason than this: the color of my skin…I don’t know why people felt that way, but I realized that there are some people who did…How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?

Davis grew up exploring why this hatred happens. He shares one profound explanation and rare insight:

Ignorance breeds fear. We fear those things we do not understand. If we do not keep that fear in check, that fear, in turn, will bread hatred…If we do not keep that hatred in check, that hatred, in turn, will breed destruction. We want to destroy those things that we hate. Why? Because they cause us to be afraid but guess what? They may have been harmless, and we were just ignorant.

As of July, Amazon lists Robin DiAngelo’s book, White Fragility,² as the third bestselling book. It was number one, but the books by Mary L. Trump and John Bolton sit at number one and two.

…if we don’t know our history, if we cannot trace the past into the present, we cannot explain current conditions in ways that are transformative rather than victim-blaming…these struggles are never separated from the present. At the same time, a piece of white fragility is that white people are not taught their history.

After hearing this, I realized that my history classes had a fundamental gap that failed to explain the American experience. What I learned in my all-white school was the white American, male, heterosexual, Christian history.

Daryl Davis with Robert White’s KKK uniform (Grand Dragon of Maryland)
Daryl Davis with Robert White’s KKK uniform (Grand Dragon of Maryland)
Daryl Davis with Robert White’s KKK uniform (Grand Dragon of Maryland)

Take the time to sit down and talk with your adversaries. You will learn something, and they will learn something from you. When two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting. They’re talking. It’s when the talking ceases that the ground becomes fertile for violence. So, keep the conversation going.

Davis notes that he’s a musician and not a psychologist or sociologist. He states, “If I can do that, anybody in here can do that.”


¹ In an email, Davis explained, “When I first met him, he was a Grand Dragon (State Leader), by the time we became great friends, he was an Imperial Wizard (National Leader). Now he is no longer in the Klan and doesn’t adhere to his former beliefs.”


To learn more about leadership and to read this post in context, refer to my book available in an eBook edition ( and a paperback edition (

About the author

Gary is a Leadership Author, Researcher, Consultant, and Podcast Guest. His latest book, What the Heck Is Leadership and Why Should I Care?, is available in paperback, eBook, and audiobook. You can learn more about Gary and his other books at

Gary is a speaker, author, researcher, and leadership futurist.

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