This past Thursday, just a couple of months after white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, and sparked violence that ended with three people dead, one of the white nationalist movement’s most prominent leaders, Richard Spencer, appeared at the University of Florida to give a speech.
In a welcome departure from the stories that normally come out of events like Spencer’s Thursday speech, an African American man was caught on tape hugging a Nazi who had come out in support of Spencer.
The Nazi, a man named Randy Furniss, wearing a plain white shirt with black swastikas emblazoned on it, was attracting intense derision from a crowd of anti-Spencer protesters when the African American man, named Aaron Courtney, came over to see what was up.
Courtney had himself been protesting for several hours at that point, and he explained to the New York Daily News that he knew he could join in on the crowd’s derision of Furniss, which included chanting, spitting, and punching.
However, instead of participating in such behavior, Courtney says that he realized that what would be more potent is to give the man a hug. He’d thus force him to recognize just how detached from reality Spencer’s white supremacy really is.
As he explained on Friday:
‘I could have hit him, I could have hurt him … but something in me said, “You know what? He just needs love”… It’s a step in the right direction. One hug can really change the world. It’s really that simple.’
Courtney says that he didn’t even know who Spencer was ahead of getting the notification that Florida Governor Rick Scott had declared a state of emergency for the area around the school. That state of emergency allowed for better cooperation between law enforcement agencies in preparing for any potential violence.
As Courtney explained:
‘I found out about what kind of person [Spencer] was and that encouraged me, as an African-American, to come out and protest. Because this is what we’re trying to avoid. It’s people like him who are increasing the distance… between people.’
As Courtney explained, when confronting Furniss, he asked him, “Why do you hate me? What is it about me? Is it my skin color? My history? My dreadlocks?”
Courtney says that the Nazi initially had no answer before, after being pressed by Courtney, he offered a simple “I don’t know.”
Courtney believes that the “I don’t know” was Furniss’ “sincere answer.”
Check out a short clip of the two’s encounter below.
— Politics 4 Dummies (@Politics4dum) October 19, 2017
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Featured Image via Screenshot from the Video.