Sunday Sesh: Let’s Just Listen to Snap Judgment

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Today for Sunday Sesh, I want to keep things positive, and thus I’m highlighting an episode from the most excellent podcast Snap Judgment, one that tells a fascinating story dealing with racism and relationships.

If you’re not familiar with Snap Judgment, it’s one of a few great podcasts you can catch on NPR on a weekly basis. The tagline is “storytelling with a beat,” and it typically features compelling and hopeful stories of humanity that help assuage the white-hot fireball of hatred most of us feel toward the world. For every news bit of an unnamed orange blowhard vomiting his self-centered delusions, there’s a Snap Judgment story that brings me back from the edge. This particular episode tells a fascinating story of music and racism.

Here’s the summary: A black musician named Daryl Davis plays a gig in Maryland in the 80s, and a white guy loves his playing and the two eventually become friends. The kicker is that the white guy is literally a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan. For a couple years, they keep in touch and the guy goes out to see Daryl play several times, bringing his Klan buddies along with him. Eventually, Daryl quits that band and doesn’t see the Klan guy for awhile.

Daryl points out in the podcast that “music is [his] profession, but learning about racism, on all sides of the tracks, is [his] obsession.” On his own time he collects all forms of information on white supremacy, black supremacy, anti-semitism, and anything he can get his hands on. He eventually decides to write a book, one he’ll fill it with interviews with racist people to try to get at his burning question of why? Through his good ol’ Klan pal, he’s able to land an interview with Roger Kelly, the KKK Grand Dragon of Maryland (quite the title). Inexplicably, those two also become friends. Good friends. Kelly eventually becomes Imperial Wizard of the whole region, and invites Davis to KKK rallies where he befriends even more members. Eventually, Davis becomes friends with much of the Klan leadership in Maryland and the surrounding region. Not long after, each one of the leaders leaves the Klan, and the entire organization dissolves in the state. Davis has a closet full of Klan regalia from members that quit the Klan and gave up their robes and hoods to him as a gesture of good will.

Despite some half-hearted revival attempts by a select few, the Ku Klux Klan was effectively ended in an entire state because Daryl Davis engaged his opposition openly, honestly, and with kindness. That’s essentially the total opposite of a metal mindset, but it is a fascinating story and it makes me wonder how it can relate to our realm of music. Our arguments are generally stuck between national socialist sentiments and left-leaning ideas, and I don’t really foresee a story of this magnitude coming out of metal (BREAKING: A sweaty dweeb in a basement defies the odds and overcomes his differences with an awkward nerd in a different basement!). However, the idea that Davis could find more common ground than differences with these KKK leaders is profound, and that can apply to all walks of life. I’m not going for a soapbox session to shove a lesson up anyone’s butt, but it’s always good to be reminded that it’s best to talk to people, listen to people, and engage positively when it comes to issues like conflicting ideology. Ridicule never helps, anger never helps (especially on the internet), but open and honest dialogue does. In closing, here’s the rad new split from some of the champions of acceptance and kindness, Cloud Rat. Oh, and Moloch absolutely crushes on the split too.

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