Former neo-Nazi removes swastika tattoos after unlikely friendship
Colorado resident Michael Kent recently sat down at a tattoo parlor in Colorado Springs to have his swastikas covered up. Follow reporter Michael Koenigs @MikeOnABikeABC for more profile pieces.
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.
â€śIf it wasnâ€™t for her I would have seeped back into it,â€ť said Kent. â€śI look at her as family.â€ť
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.
â€śIâ€™m not here to judge him. Thatâ€™s not my job to judge. My job is to be that positive person in someoneâ€™s life,â€ť Whittier said.
Added Kent, â€śWhen you wake up and see a smiley face, youâ€™re going to go to work and youâ€™re going to smile.â€ť
PHOTO: Former skinhead Michael Kent gives his former parole officer Tiffany Whittier a hug after she surprises him at his home.ABC News
Former skinhead Michael Kent gives his former parole officer Tiffany Whittier a hug after she surprises him at his home.more +
Kent now works full-time on a chicken farm in Colorado, where all his co-workers are Hispanic.
â€śBefore all this, I wouldnâ€™t work for anybody or with anybody that wasnâ€™t white,â€ť said Kent. â€ś[Now] we have company parties, or they have quinceaĂ±eras, Iâ€™m the only white guy there!â€ť
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.
â€śIâ€™ve never, never, never been inside of a tattoo shop getting a professional tattoo,â€ť 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.
â€śI donâ€™t want my kids to live the life I lived and live with hate,â€ť said Kent. â€śI want my kids to know me for who I am nowâ€”a good father, a hard worker, and a good provider.â€ť
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