Unlike his profession as a musician, Daryl Davis’ methods of fighting racism isn’t always a crowd pleaser. Accidental Courtesy, the documentary featuring Davis, covers his befriending some Ku Klux Klan members and the impact of his actions. It’s a fascinating watch for how Davis thinks outside the volatile box of race relations.
As a younger (millennial) Black man, I have some mild ambivalence to Davis’ work. He has had success in turning some of his hood-and-robe-wearing friends away from the Ku Klux Klan and its sociopathic hate. For that, I am grateful that Davis illustrating face-to-face social interaction can make a difference. However, it’s a one-man movement about crossing the aisle meaning it’s slower kind of change, doesn’t end the Klan, and can send mixed signals. Some of the tensest moments of Accidental Courtesy is when Davis talks those who don’t approve of his methods, such as a representative of the Southern Poverty Law Center and a meeting with two younger Black protesters in Baltimore. Also, Courtesy throws in footage of Donald Trump in a seemingly last-minute attempt of relevance. Davis remains hopeful while living on the brink of the Trump presidency, but how Davis deals with the alt-right would require an update a few years down the line.
Accidental Courtesy is sometimes hard to watch, but I find Davis’ effort a net positive for improving race relations. It has shown me, someone who practically lives online, how we, in general, should value getting to know each other in the flesh. Americans should be exposed to more films showing the fight against racism in action.