A self-proclaimed recovering racist and a black man ignited a friendship following Richard Spencer’s controversial speaking engagement at the University of Florida last week.
Randy Furniss, who is white, attended the event on Thursday wearing a white shirt with four black swastikas emblazoned on it and beige shorts that revealed a swastika tattoo on his lower leg, The Independent Florida Alligator reports.
“I wanted to see what Spencer had to say,” said Furniss, 31, of his decision to go to the event.
Apparently, counter-protesters who spotted Furniss attacked him.
Furniss is reportedly a reformed racist; however, he dressed like a neo-Nazi for Spencer’s speech in order to ensure he was admitted in. Julius Long, a black man, also attended the event to gain a better understanding of Spencer’s perspective. When he saw Furniss being assaulted, he intervened.
After helping Furniss escape the angry crowd and police officers who had allegedly forcefully pinned him to the ground, Long gave Furniss a ride to his car. From there, the two began getting acquainted.
The pair had chicken and waffles together at a nearby Celebrity’s Soul Food restaurant, and Long brought Furniss to the Gainesville Police Department to file a report from his earlier assault.
Furniss was formerly a member of the Aryan Brotherhood and said he began his journey as a racist around the age of 15.
“I used to hate everybody — everybody who wasn’t white,” said Furniss. “And honestly, I don’t know why.”
He said that at one point during his racist days, he refused to even go to Walmart because too many minorities shopped there.
“I’m trying to not be racist anymore, but it doesn’t happen overnight,” Furniss said.
The fact that Furniss was even willing to strike up a conversation with Long at all indicates that his efforts to put racism behind him are genuine.
Furniss was also in the news last week after Aaron Cortney, another black man, hugged him during the Spencer event, which was captured on video and went viral. Although Furniss was cautious at first, he eventually reciprocated Cortney's hug.
Furniss' decision to wear an offensive shirt to the event and expose his tattoo, however, were conscious choices that do not reflect the actions of someone who, supposedly, no longer wants to be racist.
Nevertheless, we can only hope that his new unlikely friendships inspire others to embrace tolerance and acceptance.