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Interviewing as Listening

Chattopadhyay, P. (2018). Fighting hate with friendship—One Exalted Cyclops at a time | CBC Radio. In Out in the Open. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/radio/outintheopen/cut-through-hate-1.4450415/fighting-hate-with-friendship-one-exalted-cyclops-at-a-time-1.4450891

Our task this week was to listen to several recorded interviews and to transcribe the questions from one. I chose Piya Chattopadhyay's interview of Daryl Davis.


  • How on earth did you first start making friends with members of the KKK?
  • if i was sitting in a bar and someone next to me pulls a KKK card, I'm going to get the hell out of there
  • Ok, so it sounds like the start of a terrible joke...Black guy sitting at a bar and a KKK guy comes in a sits down next to him...what happens next?
  • so that first encounter in a bar happened decades ago, it kinda got you hooked. Since then, as you say you've made it your personal project to befriend members of the Ku Klux Klan, to sit with them, to talk with them...h-h-h-help me und--I mean, how the heck does a conversation like that go, like, what is your opening line?
  • Really? What kind of music do you like?
  • so you find that common ground...how does that turn into a deeper conversation about racism and hatred, and hatred of you?
  • and what do people say?
  • you ever hear, you are naturally violent, because of who you are?
  • [whoa]
  • [laughter]
  • [wow]
  • What was it for you Scott that actually cut through the hate for you? Was there one moment or something that Daryl said, where it clicked?
  • Daryl, tell me this, what has all these conversations taught you about hate?
  • what do you mean?
  • Daryl the mind of hate you're talking about, it goes so deep...intergenerational...it is a worldview, how do you cut through hate that is so ingrained like that?
  • Scott, after you met Daryl, what did you do with your KKK robe?

Field Note

Interview with Daryl Davis

This was a rich interview with a narrative arc that followed Davis' life as a talented musician with a unique tactic for wresting KKK members from the organization through loving and respectful dialogue. Davis comes across as an extraordinarily calm and confident individual, possibly a persona honed through years of performing, and certainly tested in countless conversations with people who hate him.

The questions in the interview were very much what you would expect from someone familiar with their subject, but also someone who is genuinely curious and surprised at some answers. Piya does a good job of setting the context of Daryl's life, and revisits the emotions that she experiences a few times through the interview. Mostly, Piya seems surprised, even to the point of being a bit flustered as she can't even imagine putting herself into Daryl's situation of being in conversation with people who hate her because of who she is. I think this serves to keep the interview lighter than it might have been as there is a sense of wonder at the fortitude that Daryl displays on such a regular basis. Piya returns to this at the very end of the interview when she asks Scott where his old robe is, and he responds with 'Daryl has it'.

This sense of wonder and curiosity really shine through in Piya's unscripted moments, exclamations, and questions. It is clear that Piya is deeply engaged with Daryl's and Scott's stories and that her reactions are genuine and stem from careful listening to what each of her subjects is saying.