Free tattoos cover up hate in mid-MIssouri

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MACON – Beauty and Pain Tattoo put out a call on Facebook for anyone with a racist tattoo to come in and see the artists at the shop.

“We don’t want to talk about or judge the past, we want to go from that day and move forward,” tattoo artist Star Zamora said.

The first person to take the artists up on their offer didn’t want to share his real name, or show his face. From this point forward we will refer to him as John Smith out of respect for his safety.

Smith has multiple tattoos on different parts of his body that are offensive to certain groups of people. The first tattoo he covered up was on his right arm.

“It’s a Celtic cross, or you could call it a rounded Celtic cross and it has 14-88, very poorly done around it,” Smith said.

To the uninitiated, this tattoo would not have a deeper meaning, but the numbers are where the problem lies.

The number 14 represents a 14-word phrase: We must secure the existence of our race and the future for white children.The 8-8 below the cross stands for the eighth letter of the alphabet, “H,” or “Heil Hitler.”

Smith has had these tattoos for a very long time.

“A lot of years ago I took to running with the wrong, as they say the ‘wrong crowd.’ I ran around with some pretty hard characters,” he said. “Just like anything you can be taught. You can be taught to be good. You can be taught to be Christian. You can be taught to hate people.”

For Smith, the same is true for being taught kindness and acceptance. He said the tattoos all over his body simply don’t reflect who he is today.

“These could be here for the rest of my life and it’s still not going to effect who I am,” Smith said. “This is just something I want covered and it’s for me. I want it gone.”

Smith’s biggest influence now is his family.

“They give me a reason to go on,” Smith said. “They give me a reason to be better and that’s what I’m going to do, be better.”

Smith has three children, and, while they haven’t directly asked what his tattoos mean, he thinks it’s time to move on from his past.

“One thing about taking them off me is that I don’t have to explain myself anymore,” Smith said. “It gets old and tiresome and people are judgmental by nature.”

The tattoo of a peace sign will slowly fade into his cross over time.

Jeremy Ellis is the tattoo artist that covered up Smith’s tattoo. He said it’s his way of giving back.

“If you have a platform to use and you have a way of making a positive change in other people’s lives or a community as a whole, why should you feel that you need to get paid to do so,” Ellis said.  

Fellow artist Star Zamora came up with the idea to offer free tattoo cover-ups.

Zamora said it’s hard to take a step in the right direction when you have markings of the past.

“You get rid of that and they can truly be their new person and not keep falling back, thinking about how they were in the past,” Zamora said. “They see it when they put on their clothes or look in the mirror or things like that.”

Smith still has a number of tattoos he is planning to cover.

“I see myself, I’ve just progressed forward, never backwards,” Smith said. “I see it as a better me, new and improved.”