This former white supremacist has come a long way, thanks to his parole officer.
A Colorado resident, Michael Kent, who was a member of a violent white supremacist group based in Arizona for 20 years made the decision to have his swastika tattoos covered up after befriending his parole officer, Tiffany Whittier. Whittier is a black woman who has effected positive change in Kent’s life, which had been marred with run-ins with the law and prison time.
A few years ago, the now-38-year-old man was assigned Whittier as his parole officer and he said that she has infinitely changed his life for the better. According to Kent, Whittier marched right up to his door on that first day of the assignment and the two have never looked back.
“If it wasn’t for her I would have seeped back into it,” Kent told ABC. “I look at her as family.”
It all started with a bit of faith from both Kent and Whittier and a lot of encouragement to view the world and other people more positively. Kent’s first act was taking down the Nazi flags he had spread on his walls and replacing them with smiley faces, at Whittier’s suggestion. Her reasoning was that the positive image would help him fill the rest of his life with positivity instead of hate.
“When you wake up and see a smiley face, you’re going to go to work and you’re going to smile,” Kent said.
However, Kent’s own body was marked with evidence of his lessening hatred in the form of white supremacist tattoos. During his prison stints, he had two large swastikas tattooed on him, with one on his chest, and the words “white pride” across his back. As Kent moved further away from his beliefs that were rooted in hate, he wanted to take that final step and have the tattoos covered up.
“I’ve never, never, never been inside of a tattoo shop getting a professional tattoo,” he said, despite having tattoos all over his body. All of his former tattoos were done while in prison.
Getting tattoos removed can be very expensive, which is why Redemption Ink exists as a non-profit that offers free removals or cover-ups of hate-related tattoos. Kent went under the needle for 15 hours to undergo the painful but necessary process of removing that last piece of his former life at Fallen Heroes Tattoo in Colorado via Redemption Ink.
In the time since moving to Colorado, Kent has taken a job at a chicken farm, where he says he is the only white person in a group of Hispanic employees. This in itself is a landmark event for the father of 2, who says he never would have taken this job with his previous beliefs.
“Before all this, I wouldn’t work for anybody or with anybody that wasn’t white. [Now] we have company parties, or they have quinceañeras, I’m the only white guy there,” said Kent, joyfully.
Kent has made great strides in moving away from the Neo-Nazi movement, and part of his motivation was realizing the impact his hatred must have had on his children. Now that he has welcomed love and people of different backgrounds into his life, he hopes that his kids can do the same.
“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.”
As for Whittier, she enjoys her job as a parole officer and said that, despite generally believing in people, she never thought in a million years that she could have the lasting positive effect on someone’s life as she has had on Kent’s life.
“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,” she told ABC.