Colorado resident Michael Kent recently sat down at a tattoo parlor in Colorado Springs to have his swastikas covered up.
Kent, a former neo-Nazi, credits an African-American parole officer named Tiffany Whittier with helping him to see beyond skin color and changing his views about white supremacy.
“If it wasn’t for her I would have seeped back into it,” said Kent. “I look at her as family.”
Whittier, 45, even inspired Kent, 38, to take down the Nazi flags he had hanging in his living room and replace them with smiley faces.
“I’m not here to judge him. That’s not my job to judge. My job is to be that positive person in someone’s life,” Whittier said.
Added Kent, “When you wake up and see a smiley face, you’re going to go to work and you’re going to smile.”
Kent now works full-time on a chicken farm in Colorado, where all his co-workers are Hispanic.
“Before all this, I wouldn’t work for anybody or with anybody that wasn’t white,” said Kent. “[Now] we have company parties, or they have quinceañeras, I’m the only white guy there!”
Redemption Ink, a national non-profit that offers free removals of hate-related tattoos, helped connect Kent with Fallen Heroes Tattoo in Colorado to begin the 15-hour process of covering his swastikas. The sterile environment is new to Kent who had his previous ink work done in prison.
“I’ve never, never, never been inside of a tattoo shop getting a professional tattoo,” he said.
Kent believes the painful process will help him move forward after spending years as a member of a violent skinhead group based in Arizona. As a father of two young children, Kent also hopes his children will see the world differently.
“I don’t want my kids to live the life I lived and live with hate,” said Kent. “I want my kids to know me for who I am now—a good father, a hard worker, and a good provider.”