Last week, I shared a Facebook post about a man who has been engaging with those who want to kill and oppress him in an effort to befriend them and let them get to know him as a person.
Daryl Davis has kept their KKK robes. Even typing the words makes me feel nauseous. Since the Charlottesville horror where a neo Nazi killed Heather Heyer and many other anti-racism protesters were hurt, the regular sight of them on the news, emboldened by their president, in 2017, has made me feel like I would physically be sick.
Yet Daryl Davis has found it in himself to do what Barack Obama encouraged us all to do before he left the White House and not only engage with the ‘other’ but befriend them.
Daryl Davis has been doing this for decades. You can read more HERE.
As the piece says, ‘He gets to know them because, in his words, “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me? Look at me and tell me to my face why you should lynch me.”’
While it hurts my soul to give any headspace to people filled with such hate, I think it’s phenomenal that Daryl Davis has found the strength to meet hate with love.
While I’ve always been what many of my nearest and dearest call ‘hard work’ (challenging casual racism, sexism etc), it feels more important now than ever to engage with the people we know personally who have been taught to hate and, with as much love and compassion as we can muster, attempting to hear the ‘other’ and be open to whatever is trying to emerge.
As Nelson Mandela wrote in Long Walk to Freedom, ‘No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.’
Resistance is hugely important. People acting out or threatening must be stopped. But pretending they don’t exist isn’t working.
So when we hear those milder versions by people we know or work with, we can curiously and compassionately encourage them to think about what they’re saying and explore. Not condone (at ALL) but pay attention.
This still feels beyond me, even as I type. And yet we all share the one planet.
What helps you listen to people you feel very opposed to?
Do you find that repeating your opinions louder and louder works or does opening up and hearing what someone else is trying to say create more room for progress?
Daryl Davis is an extreme example (I simply cannot imagine the courage and openness it must take. Even the keeping of the robes, I’d want to burn them and all they stand for) but we all have much smaller ways accessible to us to listen and hopefully, by doing so, help release some of that hate.
How do you feel at the prospect?
What has helped you if you’ve done something similar in the past?
Feel free to comment below.