ARIZONA NEWS

Race relations expert says ‘every American’ should celebrate Juneteenth

Jun 19, 2024, 8:00 PM | Updated: 8:05 pm

Juneteenth, or Emancipation Day, commemorates the end of chattel slavery on June 19, 1865 in Galves...

Juneteenth, or Emancipation Day, commemorates the end of chattel slavery on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, in compliance with President Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

(Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Juneteenth is a day of celebrating for “every American — white, black or otherwise,” race relations expert Daryl Davis told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Chris & Joe Show on Wednesday, the fourth year of the United States observing the federal holiday.

The holiday celebrates the final emancipation of Confederate slaves after the Civil War, marking June 19, 1865 as the first-ever “Juneteenth.”

Davis told The Chris & Joe Show descendants of slaves should celebrate their freedom and descendants of slave owners should celebrate freedom from guilt.

“Those bondages can be physical like shackles, or they can be mental or emotional. Let’s free ourselves from that — white, black and otherwise — and then move forward together rather than try to hide that stuff. … Expose that stuff and then we move forward together.”

Davis, who wrote “Klan-destine Relationships: A Black Man’s Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan,” gained notoriety for getting Klan members to give up their robes through his empathetic persuasive tactics.

“I’m a firm believer that a missed opportunity for dialogue is a missed opportunity for conflict resolution,” Davis explained. “So I start by finding out, what do we have in common? For example, we both might like James Bond. Where we differ is perhaps he likes Sean Connery (portraying Bond) and I like Roger Moore. But we both like James Bond.

“So you find these commonalities, and if you spend five minutes talking with your worst enemy, you’re gonna find something in common. Spend 10 minutes and you’ll find more, and eventually you have found more things in common than you have in contrast. And the trivial things you have in contrast like skin color … begin to matter less and less, then you begin thinking ‘Why did I hate this guy just because of the color of his skin?'”

His activism has led him to 53 countries on six continents. Everywhere he goes, he says people find a way to get along.

“Five things people want: they want to be loved, respected, heard, treated fairly and they want the same things for their family as you want for yours. … Those things are commonalities.”

Davis says listening is the first step in developing his compassionate approach.

“Have these conversations: ‘I cannot walk in your shoes, but tell me what it feels like.’ You’re giving someone an opportunity to explain to you what it’s like,” Davis said.

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Race relations expert says ‘every American’ should celebrate Juneteenth