Activists go to mostly white community to engage in discussions about race, outreach

Aaron Clarke said he went to Harrison, Arkansas, which is near the KKK’s headquarters, to reach out to those who don’t understand the racial protests across the country or Black culture.
9:44 | 10/09/20

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Transcript for Activists go to mostly white community to engage in discussions about race, outreach
Reporter: It's a hot summer day in one of the whitest communities in America, and activists waving flags that read "Black lives matter" have come to this small town, and for the most part they're not welcome. White power, white people! White power! Black lives matter! Reporter: This is Boone county, Arkansas, where the Klan has its headquarters and where the racists have already installed their snipers on the rooftops in downtown Harrison. And just around the corner from the sign that tells you where to tune in to white pride radio for the family, the sign says. I do this in good faith. Reporter: Aaron Clark is worried it might get violent. If I can get all guns to be put up -- We got death threat after death threat after death threat. They said, I got a rifle for you down here, monkey. All sorts of things. Reporter: Clark says he's here to meet white people who he says don't understand the protests they see and the far-away culture that's beamed into their living rooms and on the devices in their pocket. I'm coming to you in a positive form and a positive fashion, you know what I'm saying? Reporter: This was mostly his idea, and he brought burgers to go with the bullhorns, inviting people to come eat lunch. I feel like food automatically creates a common ground, then we can figure out more common grounds from there. But from the jump we have a common ground, because I'm pretty sure everybody likes to eat. Reporter: The men in trucks flying by with the confederate flags aren't stopping. Hey, hey, ho, ho, this racist Has got to go! Reporter: The only thing they're bringing to this barbecue are their middle fingers. This is what they used to call a sundown town, where black Americans had trouble staying alive if they were out after it didn't take long before a militia showed up. We are not Klan. We are not racist. I'm here to stop you from burning buildings and hurting innocent people. We don't want that to happen. So if we can keep it out of our -- our areas, here in Arkansas, that's what we want to do. Great question, let's talk about that. Reporter: In the middle of all this, Clarke turns to his phone and starts a live feed on where he tries to invite people from across the county. Let's talk. You know what I'm saying? I'm willing to meet anybody up. I'll stay down here, I'll meet up with you guys, we can go get a beer or something. Go get a beer, go to the bar, we can sit down, we can talk, we can be adults. Reporter: Things start looking up when Clarke learns that someone who he was hoping to meet might be coming to visit. A famous local pastor by the name of Thomas Robb. If I can have a civil dialogue with Thomas Robb, that's what I'm definitely going to do. Reporter: 74-year-old Thomas Robb is the pastor of the Christian revival center just outside Harrison. He's better known as the national director of the Ku klux Klan. He took over the job after David duke left the position in the 1980s and is seen here in an interview with sky news three years ago. This here is our office. And we do clerical work here, membership applications. Reporter: Robb isn't just any racist, he's the most grand dragon of racists, who longer wears a hood and likes to sound as he's making sense, as he did in this interview with "The Kansas City star." Blacks by their nature probably prefer being around other blacks. Because they can relate to them. There's always going to be some that's going to want to go hang out with the white group. But by whole, people prefer being around their own kind, and nothing wrong with that. It's real. It's natural. It sounds like what you guys are doing is saying to people, come meet us. Yes. Come talk to us, come meet me, come shake my hand, come see for yourself that I am not anti-american, I am not hate-filled, I am not a terrorist. I love my community. And I want the best for all of us. And Aaron and I do this because we want a better life for our children. Exactly. And one thing that I learned about is really through conversations that I realized, that they don't really know anything about people of color. So what we want to do, and our mission is to go against the narrative. We want to come and say exactly like you said. Hey, come meet us. Reporter: The first black person to ever meet many of this area's long-time residents is this man, Kevin cherray, retired federal forest ranger who first moved here in the '70s and says it didn't always go well. He's since joined a task force the city has set up to help repair its image. We've got to get people to be willing to be uncomfortable. They've got to be willing to learn and find out what they don't know. Reporter: He says that communities all across this country are a lot more like Harrison than they'd like to admit. With white Americans, who have never really bothered to get to know many people of other races. When I'm able to share my experiences with people, especially now they know me, they're comfortable with me. And all of a sudden the issue of the confederate flag comes up. And I can tell them, look, you have to understand that when I see that flag, there's a certain level of fear that exists. Because growing up in new Orleans, if you saw a car coming down the street with the flag, you got out of the way. We also knew that wherever there was a lynching, that flag was present. And when people hear that stuff happened to me, it's like, wow. Now it's a different meaning to them. Because, this is Kevin, our friend. They're more willing to believe what you're saying. But either way, we have to talk. And we as blacks also have to be willing to listen. Yes. Reporter: It's harder to misunderstand someone when you realize they share some of your worries and many of your goals and they're trying to get that across in the protests in the streets. But sociologists explain that Americans of all colors are proving every day that what this klansman said is true that people gravitate toward their own kind. We've actually just completed a study a few years ago in the metro Detroit area that measured the ethnicity of people's networks. Reporter: I spoke with Christina Rusch, researcher at eastern Michigan university. We specifically asked them whether or not the person that they identify as close and important to them is of the same race and/or ethnicity as them. And what we found is that for both whites and blacks in America, over 95% of their networks are comprised of the same race. When I look at the Facebook pages of some of my white friends, this person who is supportive of black lives matter, I can look through sometimes years and decades of photos and not see that person standing next to anybody who looks like me. And it's stunning to me. Yes. It makes a lot of sense. You know, I'm not surprised that when you look at Facebook posts, you tend to see it to be of the same race as the person who you're looking at. Because I think there's been a lot of research to show that for the most part, people's social networks are very homogenous when it comes to race and ethnicity. Reporter: Pull out your phone right now, scroll through the pictures, and see for yourself. How many black friends do your white friends really have? It's not just the personal relationships. I think the larger media and societal portrayals of these groups also play a big role in how we understand people who are different than us. Because they immediately shape how we're going to react to the person we're coming into contact with. Reporter: She says that black and brown Americans do this too, and will often avoid real relationships with white Americans because it can be tiring to teach their experience. Explain to me why it's more difficult for white Americans to have diverse social gaza strips and groups. I think that is in large part just a result of the numbers. White Americans are still numerically the majority. And the opportunities that they have to come into contact with people who are different than them are just far fewer. They don't have to interact with people who are different than them in order to have opportunities, whereas individuals who are of racial or ethnic minority groupsthey have to. Reporter: Back at the barbecue in Harrison, Thomas Robb never showed. Would you go over to dinner to his house? Yes in an instant, yes. If he invited me to dinner in his house, I would go and sit down and eat with him. The head of the Klan? I would sit down and eat dinner with him and try and listen to what he had to say about what his organization is telling, what do you feel about us, why do you hate us? You have to make them face their own demons. Reporter: In the end, not a bullet was fired, no punches were thrown, and Clarke and his group made friends with the militia. You brought me that Gatorade, didn't you, man? Hey, I appreciate that. You have to make them question themselves, and you can't do that if you don't talk to them. Coming up, one woman's journey through her racist past to a moment of change. I have to live every day with the guilt of being brought up racist. Let them hear your voice tonight! Reporter: And the church that says god's house should look like a rainbow.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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