Man Removes Swastika Tattoo After Unlikely Friendship (Photos)

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A former neo-Nazi got his swastika tattoos removed after becoming friends with an African-American parole officer.

Michael Kent credits his parole officer, Tiffany Whittier, with helping him to see beyond skin color and changing his views about white supremacy, reports ABC News.

"If it wasn't for her, I would have seeped back into it," said Kent, who previously was a member of a violent skinhead group. "I look at her as family."

Whittier also inspired Kent to remove the Nazi flags he had hanging in his living room. An optimist, Whittier convinced Kent to replace the flags with smiley faces.

"I'm not here to judge him," she said. "That's not my job to judge. My job is to be that positive person in someone's life."

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Whittier's influence has made Kent a believer in the power of positive thinking.

"When you wake up and see a smiley face, you're going to go to work and you're going to smile," he said.

Now a free man, Kent 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. But now, he jokes, "I'm the only white guy there!" 

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Kent got his racist tattoos removed with the help of Redemption Ink, a national nonprofit that offers free removals of hate-related tattoos.

"There's enough hate in this world," says Redemption Ink founder Dave Cutlip. "And we can't find anything wrong with wanting to erase some of it."

Cutlip and his staff will cover up tattoos "that were applied in the name of hate or prejudice." If a tattoo cannot be covered up, "we rely on our donations and affiliates for removal options," he says.

In Kent's case, Redemption Ink hooked him up with Fallen Heroes Tattoo in Colorado, which undertook the 15-hour process of covering his swastikas.

"I've never, never, never been inside of a tattoo shop getting a professional tattoo," said Kent, who had all his tattoos done in prison.

Kent said his first racial tattoo was the White Pride tattoo that runs from shoulder to shoulder along the upper part of his back. He also had two swastika tattoos on his chest.

"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."

Before starting the tattoo removal process, Kent admitted it would be painful.

"Painful but worth it."

Sources: ABC News, Redemption Ink / Featured Image: Pixabay / Embedded Images: ABC News, Redemption Ink

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