After a heated exchange in the Netflix documentary ‘Accidental Courtesy,’ Daryl Davis, Kwame Rose and JC Faulk sit down with TRNN’s Eze Jackson to discuss race in America
EZE JACKSON: In 2016, director Matthew Orenstein released a documentary called ‘Accidental Courtesy,’ highlighting the work of musician Daryl Davis; a black man who works to fight racism one racist at a time, by building relationships with members of the KKK, in hopes to change their minds about the way they think about other races. Many of his subjects have done just that, change their minds; giving Davis their robes, hoods, and other memorabilia. So, in the documentary, Daryl tours the country, inviting us into these meetings and having conversations with KKK members. Some have long given up their ways. Others, not so much, but leaning. When Davis comes to Baltimore though, he meets with the retired Baltimore city police officer, who is now a whistleblower first, then, two black young activists, Kwame Rose and Tariq Touré. The interactions are heated between Daryl, Kwame, and Tariq. KWAME ROSE: You befriended a white person who don’t have to go through the same struggles as you, me, the son in the barbershop or their father. That’s not an accomplishment. That’s a new friend. That’s somebody you can call. DARYL DAVIS: Now this is coming from a dropout. KWAME ROSE: You don’t tell Steve Jobs he ain’t successful. He ain’t had no college degree. Bill Gates ain’t got no college degree. But listen, what I got … The way I’m like … DARYL DAVIS: You’re being disrespectful now. EZE JACKSON: Following that heated discussion, another discussion occurs. Long time artist, activist, JC Faulk, sits down to tell Daryl that as an old head, he could have handled things a lot better. JC gets upset himself and walks out. JC FAULK: All this shit you’re talking about this KKK hood, who gives a shit. I don’t give a shit about you or your KKK hoods. Don’t come to Baltimore doing this shit again. Don’t come back here. DARYL DAVIS: I can’t talk now? JC FAULK: You can talk, but don’t talk that shit to me. DARYL DAVIS: Why don’t you sit down, and be quiet, and let me talk then? JC FAULK: Get the fuck out of my face. EZE JACKSON: Since then, JC and Daryl have not spoken, but he and Kwame have. It’s been over a year. This evening, they are all meeting for dinner at Ida B’s Table, a modern soul restaurant in downtown Baltimore, to try again to build a relationship. I was there for the Real News Network to facilitate the discussion in the restaurants drawing room. [crosstalk 00:02:32] What’s up fellas? Y’all good? How was dinner? KWAME ROSE: It was real great. EZE JACKSON: Good, good … DARYL DAVIS: First time here. EZE JACKSON: Cool. Oh yeah, welcome. DARYL DAVIS: I’ll be back. KWAME ROSE: It’s literally my kitchen. EZE JACKSON: Yeah, yeah. Kwame down here all the time for happy hour. So I wanted to talk about the first time y’all sat down and talked, the first time y’all met, and the documentary we saw. You know, we all saw what happened and the interaction … that was pre Donald Trump … right? And I think there is a point in the discussion where you, Kwame, you say “I wish Donald Trump was the President.” How do you feel now? He’s the President. Are you glad he’s the President? What’s your thoughts right now? KWAME ROSE: You know, I think, like, as far as like the conversation where I say … cause I just got a DM yesterday somebody was like “Oh you said Donald Trump was … wish he was the President, and look at all the stuff he’s doin’” and I’m like, now y’all got a face, we removed this mythological black savior figure of Barack Obama, and now you can put a face on white supremacy, which has been in office for the other 43 Presidents. So, now it’s essentially, like, I don’t think Donald Trump has done anything that any other President, including Barack Obama, has done; which is reverse the actions of the other Presidents … I mean, Donald Trump may be more blunt about like, “Yo, I don’t like these brown people from the Middle East,” he’ll be more blunt about, “I don’t want transgenders in the military,” but subliminally this has always been happening, we’ve always been fighting for inclusion in this country and then you have these rich white men who can step up and kind of reverse that. What’s more interesting, is even in this climate … It’s like Donald Trump’s family has actual racist ties to the KKK, which because of the power of social media, no we know his father was locked up at a Klan rally in the 20’s in New York. So now like … I’m not happy about his policies, but the fact that like now people can actually see, ‘oh, this is what white supremacy looks like,’ this is why we need more people, besides rich white men running this country or being the face of it … like, I’m glad its being exposed. It ain’t an exposure for black people, it’s like the Dave Chapelle skit from election night, is like, ‘why all you white liberals shocked that a white racist man can be President, when black people have been facing this our entire lives?’ So, I still stand behind the comments, because now I’m glad it is being exposed to those who have never been exposed to their pressure. Female speaker: Oh my god, I think America is racist. Dave Chapelle: “Oh my god, you know I remember my great-great grandfather told me something like that. He was like a slave or something, I don’t know.” (Laughter) EZE JACKSON: I feel like now we’re seeing … you can’t easily hide under the guise of a post racial America, you know what I mean. I think for a while there was this, you know, façade that we were living in a post racial America, and … DARYL DAVIS: Not a façade for us though EZE JACKSON: Never for us, right, right. Daryl, how did you feel after that first meeting, that initial meeting? What type of stuff was going through your mind after you sat down with them. DARYL DAVIS: I thought “WOW! What just happened?” And, I really wish that I was given more information about JC and about Kwame, and about the other gentleman. I wish they had been given a lot more information about me. I think that it proves a point that when people are misinformed about each other, when we are ignorant about each other, and we all were ignorant about what each other does and how we think, and the only way to combat ignorance is through the dissemination of information. Education … I was not educated about them, they were not educated about me … We didn’t have the information. I thought, you know, ‘this should not have happened, but I’m glad that it did.’ Because, had that not happened we would not be sitting here today, and it proves that dialogue and information can bring people together. We may not agree on everything, but at least we have a better understanding of what each person does, what each person wants to accomplish. And at the end of the day, we realize we are all looking for the same goal, but we all have different avenues of getting there. And we respect that. EZE JACKSON: What about you JC? What was going through your mind after that? JC FAULK: Afterward I was surprised, cause I walked into the event, so I was invited to the event by a former cop, Michael Wood, and I so heard Kwame was going to be there, I had Boone, Boone was in the room when we did it [crosstalk 00:07:20] yeah, he was back in the background, and the Tariq was there, and I was like, ‘okay, cool. They going. It must be something that’s cool to go to.’ And then when we got there, it was like we got hoodwinked or something, you know. I didn’t understand what was going on. And like Daryl didn’t understand them, and they didn’t understand Daryl and I didn’t understand what was happening. One piece that just stuck with me … my platform is one where I’m bringing people together. That is what I do. So the film portrayed me as this angry black man, and it left out that part about you saying, “Kwame sucking Obama’s dick or something,” I have forgotten exactly what the term was, but it was something related to Kwame sucking Obama’s dick, and that was where the big reaction came from that. DARYL DAVIS: It wasn’t those words, but … JC FAULK: Yeah, but it was something like, but those words were used … Kwame, Obama’s dick … some combination of that (Laughs). DARYL DAVIS: The word dick was never used. The word dick was never used. JC FAULK: What was the word? DARYL DAVIS: I believe I used the word Monica Lewinsky, and the Clinton’s blow job … and I mentioned Kwame and Obama. I don’t think I ever mentioned the word dick. I know I didn’t. JC FAULK: Yeah, I’m not sure about that. Cause, whatever reaction – DARYL DAVIS: I’ve seen that – JC FAULK: Have you seen that? I would like to see it. That’s why I was asking for it, in order to be here, but whatever happened it was like, it was very disrespectful, and I … it felt like it didn’t … the conversation wasn’t honoring Baltimore, and what we’re going through on the ground in Baltimore. So I left there thinking ‘whoa. What was that? You know, and how can we move past that?’ EZE JACKSON: I think that is interesting because media seems to love to see us opposing each other. You know, fighting each other. I think it is interesting to hear from you all now, that so many people were brought into this room that didn’t know about each other. Earlier you were saying you hardly knew anything, you say you was just randomly … KWAME ROSE: In the movie, you see like I just got off the bus, to give you context on how the interaction happened, at that time I was doing hashtag lunch bag be more. [crosstalk 00:09:22]. And Mike was assisting, but then one day I just randomly show up, and the woman who was helping run it, or who was really running it, and helping me at the time, with you know, getting my stuff in order, Leyla Ortiz, she was like, “look there is a camera crew here, I don’t know what they’re about.” And I walk up and see Daryl under the bridge, and I’m like, “oh you’re the black KKK guy.” I remember seeing the CNN news headline of … And it says the black KKK member or something of that context, and that was the only context that I had on Daryl. And even if you see us, in that, we are sitting down at the happy hour we would throw after the homeless drive, we weren’t dictating the conversation, and the discussions I’ve had, this is the second time I’ve met with Daryl in person since then. The conversations that we had tonight, and the previous conversations when we actually spent time, didn’t go that way. It wasn’t any aggression, we actually got to, like, dive deeper into issues and thresh out a conversation and create a dialogue. We were being directed from behind the camera, ‘”oh well what do you think about this controversial topic? What do you think about this?’” EZE JACKSON: So the directors were kind of instigating it a little bit? KWAME ROSE: Yeah, in a sense, but at the time, we couldn’t tell. DARYL DAVIS: Yeah. KWAME ROSE: We all walked into a room, and sat at a table, knowing only negative … Well from that point, I only knew one thing about Daryl and that was that my perception of him was like, “oh he loves the KKK.” Which is totally, from my experience of having conversations with him, it’s totally the opposite. We walked into that room blindfolded about where – where Daryl came from. And Daryl walked in blindfolded about where we came from, and where our perspectives were. But that all got captured on camera and blown up to a spectacle. EZE JACKSON: Right. DARYL DAVIS: The only people who knew anything, were the ones who brought us together. EZE JACKSON: Right. DARYL DAVIS: But we were not shared that information. EZE JACKSON: Right. Mm-hmm (affirmative). JC FAULK: So there was a piece also from me, where I was just like, I’ve been on the ground with Kwame, I’ve been on the ground with Tariq, I mean I know them, you know. So for me, what gave me a little bit of a time to think was that they were being interviewed, and I was watching. So, I’m sitting there watching it, and just watching it escalate. And I’m just watching it continue to escalate, and continue to escalate. And I’m wondering from you, do you feel like you said anything in there wrong to them. Because for me it felt like there was so much stuff that you said that was wrong to these young brothers who are like putting their lives at risk. And I’m wondering if after the fact you thought, you know what maybe I shouldn’t have said that to the brothers? DARYL DAVIS: I feel given the circumstances, given the information that Kwame had on me or the lack of information he had on me, he had a visceral reaction toward me, okay. Thinking I’m a KKK member, thinking that I look like Uncle Ruckus, and so forth and so on. And, I don’t feel that I … That he’s wrong for attacking me, given the lack of information that he had. Okay, he was basically going on what he thought he knew, and naturally when someone is under attack, they’re going to defend themselves. I felt, you know, I’ve been on the ground too, okay. You know, you and he have been on the ground and put yourselves in the line of fire, in danger, with the police. I’ve bene on the ground, I’ve been in the line of danger going into a Neo-Nazi rally, into a KKK rally, trying to make some sense out of them, so we all can get along. So we all have been on the ground in different circumstances, so I was defending my position. JC FAULK: Yeah, and … Is it okay for me to go here like this? EZE JACKSON: No, let me … I want to jump. JC FAULK: Okay. EZE JACKSON: Because I want to come back to what we could have changed, about what we would have made different about that conversation. But I want to get into something. So Black Lives Matter was brought up in the discussion, right, and like I said, we are post-Trump now. Trump is the president, right, and we are in a really tense time in the country. We’ve got the Charlottesville riots that just jumped off last month, we got a star quarterback, Colin Kaepernick basically being publicly lynched for his stance in support of Black Lives Matter, and speaking out against police brutality. Right? What are your thoughts about where we’re going as a country? Like, we touched on it a little bit earlier, you know when you say, now we can see that the wool is off, the hats off, but just give me your thoughts on where we are going as a country racially, and our role as black men in that. JC FAULK: So, I am … I think it’s a pathetic that people who marched Black Lives Matter. They’re marching. They don’t have guns, they’re not even throwing bottles at people. They’re marching. That they get considered a terrorist group while KKK members don’t – they don’t get labeled as a terrorist groups in this country. Like even the president, he wouldn’t call the people who did that work down in Charlottesville, just now, that horrible work down there. He wouldn’t call them terrorists. He wouldn’t call them terrorists. So, like for us, to have people who are marching as one of the most profound movements that we’ve seen in a very long time in this country, from people of color. To have them called terrorists and have these KKK members walk away or Dylan Roof walk away getting a sandwich, while BLM marchers, they get called terrorists, and they haven’t thrown a bottle, haven’t shot anybody, haven’t done anything to harm anyone. They’re just out there, asking for freedom. Something is really wrong with our nation still being that. It’s not like we haven’t ever … Like this is new, it’s always that black people fighting for their freedom is wrong. KWAME ROSE: I think for the first time, at least in my lifetime, and I am the youngest person at this table. But for the first time, I think, in modern history, you have white people like actually realizing that white supremacy is a thing, and it’s a threat, and it’s alive and it didn’t just … Racism didn’t just end after the slaves were supposedly emancipated. It didn’t end after Brown vs. Board of Education. I think for the first time, you have a demographic of white people who believed in this ‘kumbaya liberalism’ of like ‘we’re all together.’ I think for the first time they are actually realizing that they have not done enough. And we saw it with the election, we saw it with the Democrats, oh just rest assure, oh we are going to get the minority vote, but you can’t get minority participation, without minority engagement. And that, if you don’t do that, if you don’t engage minorities and if you don’t bring us to the table, and if you don’t attack issues that we are bringing to the forefront, such as Black Lives Matter, such as DACA, such as – all these issues. Like white supremacy is still alive, strong and present, and will show up to the polls to show you that they’re still here. So I think where we are going as country, we went backwards. Overnight, 2016, essentially, because that was when the election was. Overnight, we went backwards 50 years, we went backwards 100 years; we went back to having an example of white supremacy be inside the White House, and represent everything in this country that is not built upon, cause this country was built by minorities. This country was built by the people who’ve always been at the bottom of the totem pole. And this person who is in the White House does not represent them, this untied dream that is supposed to exist, this myth. So I think like after Donald Trump, we will be able to move forward, but before we move forward we all have to take a step back. So I think that the direction now, we are going backwards in the step to move forward. EZE JACKSON: That’s interesting. DARYL DAVIS: I think Donald Trump is the impetus for that, but I would say this, you know. A lot of people, before Donald Trump, blamed Obama for everything, okay. And they say, racism has never been worse in this country since President Obama, Obama this, Obama that, etcetera. I mean if somebody walked down the sidewalk and tripped off the curb and sprained their ankle, they’d blame it on Obama. Okay. And now everybody wants to blame Donald Trump for racism. No. I do not blame Donald Trump for racism. I don’t blame Obama, or George Bush, or Bill Clinton or anybody, okay. I blame us. We have fostered a culture, we have fostered and enabled a culture, by not addressing this as much as we should, we citizens. Like we are doing right now. KWAME ROSE: And when you say us, you mean specifically us, as black people? DARYL DAVIS: No. Us, as Americans. KWAME ROSE: Or us as Americans, as a nation. DARYL DAVIS: As a nation, as a nation. KWAME ROSE: Okay. DARYL DAVIS: Okay. And we have fostered this culture, that has now allowed a Donald Trump to be in there and to fan the flames, so we really have ourselves to blame. Because the topic of race has been something that has been taboo for so long, and now we are being forced to lift that taboo and address it. I mean we’ve been addressing it in different ways, you know throughout our history. But now we are really having to address it, okay. But I, I don’t blame Trump, I don’t blame Obama. Alright, or anybody that preceded them. I blame us, and it is up to us, to address this issue as grassroots people. JC FAULK: Yeah, and I blame all of them, every last … including Obama. I blame all of them, and the closest we have got to not having that white supremacy to running the White House, was when he was in there, but it was still running the country on some levels or another, we had a black man as president and it kind of laid this curtain up, so we got fooled into believing that all the backhanded white supremacy stuff wasn’t going on in the background. It was still going on, because if it wasn’t we wouldn’t have Trump in office right now. So I blame all of them. Nobody has addressed this at the level that it needs to be addressed. So, us, as citizenry, we need to get into it, but our elected politicians, that we put into office, need to address them at levels that they are not addressing right now. DARYL DAVIS: One thing that has never taken place, in this country, there’s never been an apology for slavery. Okay. Bill Clinton came closest. He never said the U.S. is sorry, he admitted that it was wrong, but has never issued the apology. We have apologized to Native Americans for what we did to them, as a country. We have apologized to Japanese Americans for putting them in the interment camps. We were promised 40 acres and a mule. You don’t know anybody, you don’t know anybody, and I don’t know anybody who ever got that, and neither do you. Okay. EZE JACKSON: The closest thing I’ve – DARYL DAVIS: And we’ve never had an apology. It would not be beneficial for someone like Obama to apologize for slavery. It just wouldn’t look right, it wouldn’t feel right. KWAME ROSE: That ain’t got no connection to it. DARYL DAVIS: (Laughs) There you go. EZE JACKSON: It’s a … The closest thing I’ve seen happen to it, and I’m finding this interesting. Dr. West Bellamy, he’s the vice-mayor of Charlottesville. He’s the only black person on the council, and I think only the seventh that has served on the council and the youngest to ever be on the council. They passed an equity bill, which in all sense of the word, is a – a it’s a version of reparations. And I think Charlottesville was targeted, because of that. I think that the statues were just an excuse. You know what I mean, it was just a reason. But really what happened was they passed this equity bill down there, and I think, you know, people got upset about it and part of that was going to be the removal of the statues. Now, I’m looking at, you got West Bellamy in Charlottesville, you got Chockwe Lumumba, who’s the mayor in Jackson, Mississippi, 34 year old black male; and his father held the office, and he died in 2014. Somebody else held the seat, and he just won the seat. Chockwe is a self proclaimed revolutionary. Dr. West Bellamy is help him on bringing change to his community. Charlottesville itself, when I was down there, I saw is a community, really working to be a kind of poster child for racial harmony in America. How important is it and how urgent is it, do you think to have these revolutionary, radical black leaders? Because we’re from Baltimore where historically, we’ve had black elected officials, but they’ve never been radical. They’ve never been, and I feel like we need that radical change. Do you think that we can do that? Do you think that’s the way? KWAME ROSE: I think so. And my experience is different. I got, before Freddy Grey, I’ve always had the mindset, but after what happened in Baltimore was an uprising where you saw kids who didn’t even know they were radicals. Who they had no afflation to any political party, but once you saw that they got fed up with like not being fed, they reacted. And they stood up and it made a difference, and now we get to see young black men, like a Dr. West Bellamy, like a male, Lamumba. We get to see all these young black men, we can look up to and see ourselves at. So I think we are getting closer to having less figures like the stereotypical Martin Luther King figure and more of what the stereotypically identify as a Malcolm X figure. Where it’s like, ‘yo, I can be not just black in the room, but I can let you know I’m black, and I’m here for black people.’ EZE JACKSON: Yeah. Because I think you all or one of you were bringing this point up earlier, about how there is this kind of automatic racism that happens in peoples minds. And I think sometimes we have been taught that we can’t be radical, you know what I’m saying, like when you move in political circles where black elected officials, and those that know how to navigate, they’ll tell you, calm down with all of that. You know what I mean? And I think that it’s time not calm down anymore, would you agree?