The tensions between white supremacists and black people are very real. It's natural that the hatred spewed from white supremacists would elicit a wide variety of emotions such as anger, fear, sadness and frustration. Although much has been made of Antifa and violent responses to white supremacist hate, many individuals of color have chosen to counter that hate with love, and even friendship.
Aaron Courtney is one of those who has chosen "love." In a video that quickly went viral, Courtney can be seen hugging a neo-Nazi named Randy Furniss while emotionally screaming, "Why you don't like me, dog?!"
According to NY Daily News, the whole thing happened outside alt-right leader Richard Spencer's speech at the University of Florida this week. If that name sounds familiar, it is because Spencer was a key figure in the planning of the Charlottesville rally.
Courtney hadn't actually heard of Richard Spencer before he received a notification on his phone declaring a state of emergency in Florida. Florida's governor declared a state of emergency in order to guard against another Charlottesville.
Courtney did some research on Spencer, and decided to protest his speech.
"I found out about what kind of person he 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,” he said.
Furniss was screamed at, punched and spat at before Courtney approached him and pulled him in for an embrace. “I could have hit him, I could have hurt him ... but something in me said, ‘You know what? He just needs love,’” said the 31-year-old high school football coach.
“I had the opportunity to talk to someone who hates my guts and I wanted to know why. During our conversation, I asked him, ‘Why do you hate me? What is it about me? Is it my skin color? My history? My dreadlocks?’” Courtney added.
Furniss initially ignored and brushed off Courtney's questions, and Courtney became more and more upset. “After beating around the bush, and avoiding my questions, I asked him, I pleaded with him, I almost broke out in tears, growing increasingly angry because I didn’t understand,” he said.
He told the Nazi to give him a hug and embraced him while asking, “Why do you hate me?”
Furniss then finally answered, “I don’t know.”
“I believe that was his sincere answer. He really doesn’t know,” said Courtney.
Courtney believes that his simple gesture is just the beginning. “It’s a step in the right direction. One hug can really change the world. It’s really that simple,” he said.