Maryland resident Daryl Davis has studied the Ku Klux Klan for the past 20 years and speaks to Klansman by phone every day.
He said the horrific Charleston murder of nine churchgoers didn't shock him.
"It is tragic. But I am not surprised," he said Friday.
Davis, of Silver Spring, showed News4 the collection of KKK robes, hoods and paraphernalia he's accumulated over decades. At this point, he spots the meaning of every insignia. He immediately recognized the pro-apartheid patches suspected shooter Dylann Roof wore in photographs.
Hate is a part of America's past, Davis said.
"It is a shameful part of our history. But nonetheless, it is still a part of our history," he said.
Asked why he, a black man, talks daily with Klansman, he said he wanted to understand bigotry, "to find out, how can you hate me when you don't even know me?"
Davis said he believes the best way to beat hate is to talk about race openly.
"We are not talking to each other. That's the key," he said.