End of the Year Reflections

As 2017 comes to a close (thank Christ), I can’t help but feel incredibly grateful for embarking upon this project and everyone who has supported me– friends, family, and all the great new people I’ve met through this blog. Writing here has proved more fulfilling than I ever imagined.

I have quite a few new essays in the works I’m really looking forward to sharing, so stay tuned!

On a personal note, 2016 was a really awful year for me full of personal turmoil, and 2017 was also hard but a massive improvement. I plan to keep it going in 2018. My resolution is sort of abstract but I think a good one. I want to make myself proud every single day. If I can do that I will have achieved so much by 2019! Right now I’m very optimistic about the work I’m doing and will do.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year’s celebration. What is everyone’s resolution?

What if I’m Wrong? Reflections on “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America”


Normally I find political documentaries forgettable, but recently I saw one I can’t stop thinking about. I highly recommend it if you have Netflix. It’s called “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America.”

Daryl Davis is a professional musician but he’s also very well-known for his rather unusual activism: he befriends high-ranking members of the Ku Klux Klan. Oh, and he’s a black man.

The intention behind these friendships is to eventually steer them away from their hateful beliefs. Davis explained that while Klan members hate and/or fear black people, often once they become familiar with him they start to soften towards him, see him as a human being, and eventually, a friend. In theory, that should force them to confront the cognitive dissonance created by the incompatibility of the Klan mentality with interracial friendship. Many of the people he has befriended have left the Klan. Davis does not initiate friendships with them over the internet– it is strictly a face-to-face affair. In the age of knock down, drag out political flame wars that are only too easy to start in cyber space, this rule makes sense given Davis’s goals. The stakes, however, are raised significantly in person. I can only imagine the courage it must take to confront an enemy who literally wants you dead.

But in my last post, and really in all my posts so far, I’ve been skeptical about the prospect of any type dialogue–let alone coalition building– between far right extremists and the left. Hate groups like the KKK certainly qualify as extreme. Davis said something that struck me because it is literally the exact opposite of something I’ve written on this blog:

“If you have an adversary, someone with an opposing point of view, regardless of how extreme it may be… give that person a platform. Allow them to air their views, and when you do things like that, there is an excellent chance that people will reciprocate.”

My argument has always been to refuse these people a platform. That dialogue with a white supremacist is not only pointless but cheapens the entire concept of dialogue.

In the documentary, Davis has three very (I thought) productive conversations with other leftists who disagree with his approach and are more in line with my thinking. I’ve posted transcriptions of all those conversations under the cut if you’re curious, but I really recommend seeing the movie if possible. He talks to Mark Potok, Senior Fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, Black Lives Matter activists Kwame Rose and  Tariq Touré and Black Lives Matter Community Organizer JC Faulk. All four of these men make a similar point: why pour all this time and energy into this specific method of improving race relations? For one thing, changing a white supremacist’s mind is a very, very slow process. It also doesn’t always work. And it is fair to speculate that Davis might have instead chosen to direct his resources elsewhere, into other movements, with more concrete results.

I will admit I find something incredibly powerful about changing a white supremacist’s mind. It’s a really seductive idea. But I tend to agree with his critics– we need to think beyond the individual level when it comes to stamping out white supremacy. I also see Davis’s perspective as asking people, particularly people of color and other marginalized people, to take on not only an enormous amount of risk, but also emotional labor. I don’t think it is right or fair to ask people to give white supremacists space for a platform when that platform is hate and death.

But I’m open to the idea that I’m being closed-minded. I’ve been displaced from my home in Santa Barbara due to the Thomas Fire, so my apologies for this short and not very involved post. Mainly, I have questions to pose to my readers. Is there some possibility for dialogue between those on the left, such as myself, and those on the far right? Do we need to be reaching out to those we disagree with most?

Continue reading “What if I’m Wrong? Reflections on “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America””

The Balance

[Taps mic]. Is this thing on? Ahem. Okay, so. This is the blog. The blog I’ve been meaning to write. The blog I’ve been saying I would write. The blog I’ve put off for years. I’m finally doing it. Hence, the title: Finally, a Blog.

What’s the blog about? Well, me. I imagine it will be one part diary, one part political commentary, one part cultural critique, and one part cool artsy stuff. The magpie of blogs, in keeping with my logo, designed by my amazing sister-in-law! (Go follow her). Eclectic is the name of the game around these parts. There will be essays, and lots of them. The art of 140 characters or less eludes me, but if you really want to follow me on Twitter (or Facebook, or Instagram), go for it. The links are at the top of the page.

My perspective will remain constant throughout this blog, though. I’ve thought deeply about how I wish to approach the issues I will cover here, and with what mindset.  That mindset is balance. The catalyst for all this deep thinking was a Radiolab episode called Lu vs. Soo.

During a bike trip across the country, two friends Lu and Soo discovered a fundamental difference in their personalities that caused both a clash and, ultimately, a kind of mutual respect. When they arrived at the intersection between the TransAmerica trail and the Appalachian trail, they stayed overnight in a free hostel for hikers and bikers, where they encountered two other hikers. One of the hikers engaged the two friends in conversation, which quickly took a turn for the bizarre. He both claimed to have prophesied the Virginia Tech shooting and to have almost killed a black woman at knife point, believing himself to be possessed. Lu, who had indulged the man’s oddness up until that point, now stayed silent out of fear. Soo, however, sprung into action, aggressively challenging the man to take personal responsibility for the violence he nearly inflicted on an innocent woman, and urged him to seek professional help. Refusing to back down, Soo eventually persuaded the man to admit he might need help after all.

In that moment, Lu had an epiphany. Once furious at Soo for accusing her of “deceiving” people with her niceness, she looked at her friend’s confrontational personality as full of bravery and profound hopefulness, seeing it ultimately as a force for change.

Soo was less generous about her fiery nature, seeing it as more of a flaw responsible for ending friendships and “alienating” her from other people. In fact, though Lu disparagingly referred to her niceness as something that enables stasis, Soo remarked that stasis is what is needed for lasting relationships. Stasis is stability.

I have always been a Soo– an aggressive pursuer of truth at any cost, damn the consequences. I am known for my blunt Real Talk™. I am perhaps a bit too comfortable with the more negative emotions and their many expressions. But luckily, I have two friends who are Lus who I admire very much, and they’ve given me cause for much self-reflection on this matter. One is probably my best friend. The other is a new friend.

Now, neither of these friends are bland or merely “nice.” They’re both extremely talented and successful, cool people with enviable networks of friends and colleagues (probably because they err on the side of Lu). They’re both professional writers and experts in their respective specialized fields. I would be remiss if I didn’t also add that they can be completely candid when necessary, but my point is they are tactful. They value harmony with those around them, as Lu did in the Radiolab episode. The unwavering diplomacy they show those around them is nothing short of amazing to me, as the people they have had to deal with have acted in ways that would have me absolutely foaming at the mouth. Honestly, I was foaming at the mouth for them. Second-hand. 

Anyway, both of these friends recently pointed out to me, rather gently I might add, that advertising the unvarnished truth about myself– or anything, really– all the time creates the kind of backlash Soo experienced constantly. People projected anger and cruelty onto her whether or not it was actually really there. This constant drive to excavate the truth at all costs does feel a bit like an exhausting, destructive force at times. And, as the Radiolab episode explains, it can drive wedges between people by dredging up grudges that don’t even need to exist in the first place.

It is my intention to view all my subjects with nuance. I’ll be tackling some really difficult subjects, and surely my Real Talk™ voice will out. I intend to honor it. But I also intend to strike a balance so that I create a dialogue and hopefully, a relationship with my readers. That is what I want.

So, I turn it over to you, whoever is reading: are you more of a Lu or a Soo?

New posts coming soon, and pardon my dust while I get this thing up and running.