Luther College Chips

“Accidental Courtesy” opens “Hope Over Hate” week

Daryl Davis poses with a klan member after a rally.

Daryl Davis poses with a klan member after a rally.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Daryl Davis poses with a klan member after a rally.

Rozlyn Paradis, Staff Writer

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Campus Programming screened the documentary “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America” on March 1. The screening is preparation for Daryl Davis visit to campus as part of the “Hope Over Hate” week, which intends to encourage difficult conversations on campus.

The documentary follows musician, actor, lecturer, and author Davis as he befriends members of the Klu Klux Klan (KKK). Davis emphasizes his belief that dialogue with people with different values has the potential to make real change in the world.

Through his conversations, Davis has befriended KKK members, discussed racially-based ideologies, and collected 26 robes from various KKK members. These interactions sparked honest conversations that debunked racist beliefs, inspiring many members to leave the KKK.

Approximately 35 individuals attended the screening, including students, faculty, staff, and Decorah community members. Professor of Africana Studies and English Novian Whitsitt wishes that there had been more students in attendance.

Photo courtesy of
KKK member Bob White with Daryl Davis.

“It is important to take the opportunities provided by Luther to talk about [race relations],” Whitsitt said.

After the screening, Whitsitt facilitated a discussion with the viewers.

“Evaluating [Davis’] work can be complicated,” Whitsitt said as he opened the discussion after viewing the film.

The responses of viewers varied. Director of the Center for Ethics and Public Engagement (CEPE) Victoria Christman found inspiration in Davis’ work.

“I find that kind of openness and willingness to engage — to really be in dialogue with someone else — really inspiring,” Christman said.

In a scene near the end of the film, two young Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists outwardly disagree with Davis’ methodology. They claim he was only making new friends — the KKK members — and collecting trophies — the robes — instead of “making real change,” like the BLM movement is.

Discussion members were overall surprised that Davis chose to leave that scene in as it did not present him well.

“I thought that it was quite honest of Davis to leave that scene in the documentary,” Christman said. “There was a certain vulnerability involved in doing that.”

Rozlyn Paradis (‘21) | Chips
Attendees discuss Daryl Davis film at the screening of “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America.”

Decorah community member Liz Rog (‘81) commented on the split feelings this critique provoked.

“There are just different kinds of work and we have to do all of it,” Rog said, “Sometimes people are called to do different things.”

“One of the goals of the CEPE is to foster ‘difficult conversations’ both on campus and in the community,” Christman said. “I hope Davis will make all of us think about our individual reactions to other people. I hope that it will make us think about the potential we have for being bridge-builders in this world, and I hope it might help us listen rather than yell, and talk to one another rather than speak past one another.”

Davis will give a Luther College Humanities Distinguished Lecture on Thursday, March 8 at 7 p.m. in the Center for Faith and Life at Luther College. The event welcomes the Luther and Decorah community.

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