As part of our Cleveland and Bradley County hometown’s ongoing observance of Black History Month, Cleveland State is stepping up to provide face-to-face interaction with a nationally recognized figure who is working to enhance race relations by offering a stage for open communication and personal awareness.
He is Daryl Davis, author of “Klan-Destine Relationships,” a revealing true story of one man’s — one black man’s — encounters with the Ku Klux Klan. Ironically, it is not a depiction of violence which is so often associated with the racist organization. Instead, it is a portrait of how one man’s methods — one black man’s — converted past KKK members from hate mongers to people of tolerance.
Perhaps we should repeat the latter. Using his own tools for infiltration into this loathsome group, Davis managed to convert KKK members from the dark side of humanity. He has proof. Hanging in his closet are robes and hoods that were given to him by past Klansmen who rescinded their misguided beliefs in his presence.
The author didn’t necessarily launch his work with the idea of improving race relations. Rather, his intent was to explore racism and gather information for his book. But he accomplished both, and now he is a sought-after public speaker, especially on college campuses, who can bring a unique perspective to any stage.
We stake no claim to being an expert on Davis’ work; however, we are told his methods for establishing friendships between sworn enemies is effective — but not altogether popular by all members of the white and black races.
According to a website promoting the writer’s book, “His methods have made him the center of controversy. In some white circles, he has been deemed ‘politically incorrect,’ and in some black circles he has been called ‘Uncle Tom.’”
In spite of his critics — after all, everybody has a few — Davis has earned high marks for his book, and for his work, from a variety of news media outlets and other organizations. Among them are CNN, CNBC, ABC, The Learning Channel, National Public Radio, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Baltimore Sun, The American Ethical Union and The Washington Ethical Society.
Tracey Wright, CSCC director of Community Relations and Special Programs, whose dedicated work is responsible for attracting a speaker of this caliber, described the Tuesday gathering as a “... must-attend event.” She added, “The stories, the behaviors and ultimately the change of heart that occurs will linger with you.”
It has been said Davis has spent the last 10 years of his life “... walking on the edge with one foot dangling over the precipice.” Given the nature of his work, we would agree.
Nothing escalates tension among people more than matters of race. It is unfortunate, but it is true.
It is one reason organizations of great vision — like CSCC, Lee University, the Pentecostal Theological Seminary, Black Ministries Department of the Church of God, the Bradley County Chapter of the NAACP and 100 Black Men of Bradley County, among others — dedicate their energy to the resolution of social issues like race relations.
Each is a tribute to our hometown, not because of who they are but because of the work they do.
Seating for Davis’ appearance Tuesday, which begins at 7 p.m., is open. But, reservations may be made by visiting http://mycs.cc/klandestine on the Web.
We recommend arriving early.
Not everyone will agree with the speaker’s tone, but all who attend should do so with an open mind and a willing heart.