Daryl Davis, An Example of Peace

By Michelle Scheeland

Stereotypes and group generalizations — making assumptions about people based on race, religion, ethnic background, political group, hair color, whatever – are the most ignorant things a person can do. Hating people because of those stereotypes is unhealthy. How does expending energy on hating people benefit you? Hate causes anger. Anger causes stress and stress raises cortisol levels which leads to inflammation. It’s a physiological, weight altering, blood pressure increasing, mess. So, how do you deal with it when you are on the receiving end of that hatred? Daryl Davis has it right. He uses conversation and understanding.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Let no man pull you down low enough to hate him.” One man who truly lives those words is Daryl Davis, a black musician who, over the years, has converted KKK members through his music, talking, having beers, and teaching them he is not who they believed him to be.

As these members left the ranks of the Brotherhood of Mommy’s Sheets, they’ve given Mr. Davis their robes to keep. Mr. Davis shows that progress can be made when you put anger aside and show compassion in order to bring out the humanity in others. Mr. Davis says, “Establish dialogue. When two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting.”

Mr. Davis’s words make so much sense. Yelling at each other has done nothing but spark more anger and eventually lead to violence. Make no mistake, Davis is no pushover. He has had his share of physical confrontations getting attacked by anywhere from one to three guys at a time. Davis stated, “I won, both physically on the street and legally in court.” Unfortunately, reactions to Davis’s rehabilitation work have been mixed. Many have called him names like, Uncle Tom and “out dated.” Why? Because he’s teaching people that their skewed views are wrong and setting them on the path to a life that is less ignorant and more tolerant than before?

Is there room in the world for hate groups? No. But, can we alter our perspective and change the way we deal with them? Yes. If gang members can be rehabilitated to live happy and prosperous lives, so too can members of hate groups. Understanding that not everyone will change, the more people who leave these groups to become better people, the fewer followers and the less power the groups will have. If we can destroy this hate from within through effective communication, that would eliminate so much stress. After all, if hate is learned, it can be unlearned. In contrast, hate begets hate so if we want to affect change, one side has to say, “I’m better than that, I’m not going to let you push me, but I will talk to you if you are willing to just sit down and have a beer Obama style.”

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