A black musician has a unique hobby: befriending white supremacists

When Shepherd first heard about Davis 5 years in the past, he was dumbfounded.

“I assumed he was nuts,” stated Shepherd, fifty eight, of South Haven, Mississippi. “I informed him he was a complete crackpot.”

However over the course of dozens of telephone calls, a number of visits and numerous conversations about music, the 2 turned associates – a lot in order that Shepherd now proudly calls himself a “reformed racist” and says Davis is a brother to him.

Davis, fifty nine, has met and befriended many Klan members through the years, connecting over topics resembling household and music. Davis, an R&B musician who performed the piano for Chuck Berry, additionally makes use of a mixture of logic and historical past to attempt to persuade them to rethink their racist beliefs.

Between forty and 50 Klan members, he claims, have renounced their membership due to his intervention, and lots of have handed over their robes, which he retains in his house in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Someday, he stated, he hopes to open a museum.

Davis, who was featured in a PBS documentary launched in February that screened at South by Southwest final yr, has gained a measure of fame over the previous 30 years for his seemingly far-fetched mission. Following the violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12, The Washington Publish requested Davis whether or not his mission or optimistic outlook had modified.

His resounding reply: No.

“I do not assume my job has gotten any more durable. They’re human beings,” he stated, talking concerning the white supremacists he has met through the years. “Many are good, exhausting-working individuals with a skewed notion of life and actuality.”

Davis stated President Donald Trump – who was extensively criticized for equivocating earlier than ultimately denouncing white supremacists – cannot be blamed for the lethal violence in Virginia.

“He followers lots of flames the fallacious means,” Davis stated. “However the racist tradition that allowed Charlottesville to occur was in place lengthy earlier than Trump ran for president.”

The silver lining of tragic occasions like Charlottesville, Davis stated, is that they foster conversations about race that he feels are essential to ending racism.

“Speaking about race on this nation has been taboo for means too lengthy,” Davis stated.

Davis faces a variety of skepticism.

Mark Potok, an skilled on extremism previously with the Southern Poverty Regulation Middle, stated within the PBS documentary that Davis’ technique might or might not find yourself working in the long term. However he stated, “We will not wait round. … There’s a bigger poison at work right here.”

Davis’ strategy, which takes him to Klan…

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