BLACK Text on screen: "We have a problem. And it's a big one." NARRATOR (V.O.) We have a problem. And... It's a big one. GIF of Facebook keyboard smashing (?); anti-vaccine or flat-earth people (?) We all live in a world where tons of people believe stuff and hold opinions and values that we think are just... Stupid... We see shots of neo-Nazi/KKK and Communist/Mutualist flags at an angry protest rally. NARRATOR Or, even worse... Evil. The rally descends into violence. NARRATOR Disagreements can be frustrating. Tempers flare, people get mad. It's tempting to lash out. CUT TO: BLACK NARRATOR We've all experienced this: You say or do something somebody doesn't like, and they come right up to you and tell you that you're dumb for thinking whatever you think. They get to be smug about it to their friends, who of course, already agree with them and cheer them on. They clearly feel great lording their moral superiority over other people, but in the end, they haven't really accomplished anything. After the person who yelled at you walks away, you mainly just think they're a jerk. Other people who were even a little sympathetic to your position end up feeling the same way, because they know if the jerk knew what they believed, he'd have contempt for them too. Some of them might even quietly tell you that they thought you were right. So... Even though the jerk's friends might give them a high five or like their posts on Facebook; of the people who didn't already share his viewpoint, nobody's minds were changed. Even worse, he might have inadvertently pushed more people away from his ideas. And the next time that guy yells at someone for having the wrong opinion, maybe they'll yell back. Richard Spencer gets punched on camera. NARRATOR Or maybe they'll punch him in the face. And then what? More violent mobs. NARRATOR Do we all just escalate the war until somebody gets seriously hurt... Or killed? Obviously, that's not helpful. But... The question remains: FADE TO BLACK Text on screen mirrors the narration. NARRATOR When people believe in wrongheaded or terrible things, how do we actually persuade them to stop believing the bad ideas, and get them to start believing in good ones instead? For the first time, we reveal clips from "Accidental Courtesy" NARRATOR One incredible man named Daryl Davis might have the answer. Daryl is the subject of a fantastic documentary called "Accidental Courtesy", directed by Matt Ornstein. Main Titles. Then more clips from the film. NARRATOR For the past 30 years, Daryl has been traveling the country engaging in conversations and even forming friendships with members of the Ku Klux Klan. DARYL "I wanted to know... How can you hate me when you don't even know me?" NARRATOR It's a great question. And to find out, Daryl went on a mission to seek out and engage with high ranking members of the KKK. He's invited them into his home, he's had countless conversations, and as unlikely as it seems now considers a number of them to be his friend. DARYL "I'm his friend... I don't know if he's my friend" NARRATOR Daryl might say that he's not really even doing anything special besides treating people with respect and kindness. DARYL [ETC.] NARRATOR I guess that's true... Yet, it's still something almost no one else has the courage to do, even when the risks are considerably lower. But Daryl's approach has a lot of empirical support from the neuroscientists & psychologists who study persuasion. Just like how we know from psychological studies that people's amygdalas -- the part of the brain that processes raw emotions -- can actually hijack their rational minds and create a fight or flight response when they feel threatened or attacked; and how we know that presenting facts or arguments that directly conflict with people's core beliefs or identities can actually backfire, causing people to cling to those beliefs more tightly after they've been presented with contrary evidence; we also know a lot about how to talk to people in ways that are actually persuasive. In Robert Cialdini's book, "Influence", he describes what he calls the "Principles of Persuasion". One of these principles is called "Reciprocity", and it's based on the idea that people feel obliged to treat you the way you treat them. So, if you treat them with kindness and humility, most people will offer you the same courtesy. On the other hand, if you treat them with contempt, well..... What do you think? Another principle Cialdini describes is the idea of "liking". It's almost too obvious, but it turns out that if someone likes you personally and believes that you like them, it's easier to convince them that your way of thinking is worth considering. One easy step towards being liked is to listen to others and find common ground through shared interests. This can be a bridge -- or a shortcut -- to getting other people to see you as a friend or part of their tribe. Now... You might think somebody like Daryl Davis would have nothing in common with a KKK member, but that's... Not true. CUT TO: FUSION: "THIS BLACK MUSICIAN EXPLAINS WHY HE IS FRIENDS WITH WHITE SUPREMACISTS" DARYL (02:10-02:34) "Spend 5 minutes talking to someone and you'll find something in common... Spend 10 minutes, and you'll find something else in common." BACK TO: ACCIDENTAL COURTESY We see more clips of Daryl talking to KKK members. (01:20.00+ is a good section) NARRATOR Over time, forming relationships with members of the Klan has had an interesting side-effect. In the last couple decades, over 200 of America's most ardent white supremacists have hung up their robes and hoods for good. Many of those robes now hang in Daryl's closet. And in a lot of cases, these individual conversions have much bigger consequences and may end multi-generational cycles of bigotry. KKK FAMILY [Scene where a family who were raising their kids to be racists converts] NARRATOR We live in a time when a lot of people are saying that the only answer to hate and awful ideas is to meet them with even more hate, more anger, outrage, and even... Violence. Recently, Dan Harmon, creator of Rick & Morty, Community, and one of my favorite comic books ever even said that the time for talking was "over". CUT TO: DAN HARMON: "I'M NOT A NAZI RANT" DAN HARMON (02:18-02:27) "It's over..." CUT TO BLACK: NARRATOR But I disagree. Most of human history is filled with people allowing their arguments to turn into bloody, horrific warfare. It's only commitment to dealing with our adversaries peacefully through free speech and conversation that has allowed us to become more civilized. DARYL "I don't respect the ideas, but I respect the man." NARRATOR And if these techniques can work to convince die-hard white supremacists that somebody like Daryl Davis is worthy of respect, imagine how effective they can be with your friends, neighbors, and co-workers who don't actually hate you or the things you stand for. Who knows, if you have more genuine conversations with people outside your bubble, you might even find yourself changing a little bit for the better as well. The way to deal with wrong or evil ideas isn't shouting them down or starting a fight... It's having the courage to do what Daryl did and making a friend out of an enemy. DIP TO BLACK: END CARD NARRATOR Hey everybody, thanks for watching this episode of Out of Frame. If you have an idea for a video you'd like to see me make in the future, let me know what you think in the comments. And if you want to see more video essays like this, hit that subscribe button and check us out as @FEEonline on all the social media.

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About this show

Video essays that explore the intersection of art, culture, and big ideas written & produced by FEE's Director of Media, Sean W. Malone.

September 7, 2017

There is an incredible documentary available on Netlix right now that you should watch called "Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race, and America". Davis has been traveling the country for decades, converting members of the Ku Klux Klan away from their white supremacist views, simply by having conversations and forming friendships. On this hard hitting episode of Out of Frame, we explore the neuroscience and psychology behind Daryl's approach and why it works when yelling at people and resorting to violence only makes the problem worse.


Written & Produced by Sean W. Malone
Edited by Jaye Davidson & Sean W. Malone