Ex-Skinhead Gets His Racist Tattoos Removed After Becoming A Dad
Meet Bryon Widner, a former – in his own words – “borderline sociopath” who was full of hate and had an insatiable lust for violence.
He became a skinhead at the age of 14, and he spent 16 years involved with racist organizations in the midwest. He earned the nickname of “pit bull”, and went on to co-found Vinlanders Social Club, a white power group in Indiana.
Vinlanders soon gained a reputation for excessive violence and became one of the fastest-growing racist skinhead organizations in the US.
In 2005, Widner married Julie Larsen and a year later, the couple had a son. The responsibilities of fatherhood gave Widner the desire to reform and leave the racist movement, a desire shared by his new wife.
Widner took the decision to leave the neo-nazi group, but it took years of death threats and harassment before he felt that he was finally becoming “human again.”
Widner’s attempts to become part of regular society were understandably made more difficult by his many facial tattoos, which were both intimidating and openly racist. His wife Julie was afraid that he would do something extreme to erase his tattoos, so depressed and desperate he was becoming.
“I was totally prepared to douse my face in acid,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press.
Julie eventually contacted Daryle Lamont Jenkins, an anti-racist activist, who put her in contact with the Southern Poverty Law Center.
After several weeks of meetings and evaluation, SPLC representatives decided that Widner was sincere in his desire to fully reintegrate into society and agreed to help him to remove his facial tattoos. They found a plastic surgeon who was willing to perform the procedure, and an anonymous donor provided $35,000 for the procedures.
The complete removal of Widner’s facial tattoos took around a year and a half, and he had to endure over a dozen individual procedures, all of them were excruciatingly painful.
Dr. Bruce Shack, chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, told Widner that the removals would feel like “you have the worst sunburn in the world, your face will swell up like a prizefighter, but it will eventually heal.”
“This is not going to be any fun.”
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