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‘How Can You Hate Me?’ Maryland Musician Converts White Supremacists

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When musician Daryl Davis was 10 years old, adults threw rocks and bottles at him as he paraded with his fellow Cub Scouts — because he was the only black member.

At first he thought these people didn’t like the Cub Scouts. After having a conversation with his parents, he learned that racism was to blame.

“I formed this question in my mind at that age, which was, how can you hate me when you don’t even know me?” Davis said.

That question is one that Davis has asked racists again and again. The Maryland resident says he has helped "convert" more than 200 white supremacists over the past three decades.

Davis is an accomplished musician who played with Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. Changing the minds of racists is his second passion.

I've got all these robes and hoods hanging in my closet. That's what I've done to put a dent in racism. How many robes and hoods have you collected?

Daryl Davis

At a concert, Davis met a man who turned out to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan. He was inspired to attend Klan rallies and try to engage with members and supporters.

That’s how Davis met former neo-Nazi Jeff Schoep, who’s now a good friend and fellow traveler in Davis’ journey to change white supremacists' minds.

“Daryl has a gift. He has a gift about being able to reach people that certainly got to me,” Schoep said.

Davis said many reformed racists have given him their KKK robes and hoods as a sign of their appreciation.

"I've got all these robes and hoods hanging in my closet. That's what I've done to put a dent in racism. How many robes and hoods have you collected?" he asked.

Since the deadly attack in Charlottesville in 2017, Davis spends most of his time doing outreach and educational speaking, rather than hosting concerts.

This Saturday, though, he is playing a rare concert at The Birchmere and welcomes anyone who wants to hear him play or talk about racism.

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