Tattoo Artist Covers Up Racist Insignia For Free: 'Enough Hate In This World'

Feb 25, 2017
Originally published on February 25, 2017 6:43 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We all make mistakes, right? And who among us doesn't want a second chance? Well, that's what tattoo artist Dave Cutlip is doing. He's offering cover-ups of racist or gang-related tattoos free of charge. Dave's the owner of Southside Tattoo in Brooklyn Park, Md. He posted his offer on Facebook last month. He wrote, "sometimes people make bad choices, and sometimes people change. We believe that there is enough hate in this world, and we want to make a difference," unquote.

This generous act caught our attention, so we called up Dave to find out more about why he decided to do this. He joins us from his shop, which is just south of Baltimore.

Dave Cutlip, thanks so much for speaking with us, especially on this busy day for you.

DAVE CUTLIP: Oh, thank you for having me. It's a pleasure.

MARTIN: So first of all, tattoos aren't cheap. They can cost hundreds of dollars, right? And getting one removed can cost even more.

CUTLIP: Absolutely. They actually can cost up into the thousands.

MARTIN: So what made you decide to make this offer?

CUTLIP: I had someone come in, and they had some tattoos on their face. I couldn't help him, but I figured - well, if I can't help him, maybe I can help somebody else.

MARTIN: So you posted your offer on Facebook last month. I understand you've already had quite a reaction. Can you tell us a little bit more or maybe even share some of the stories of the people who've come in?

CUTLIP: Yeah. A lot of them were in the prison, or they were just, you know, in bad neighborhoods. And one particular guy was working in a coffee shop, and he was trying to get a job with Amazon. And Amazon wouldn't hire him because he had white power tattooed on his arms.

MARTIN: Do you think that some of these folks - have they actually had a change of heart, or are they just trying to cover up what they still believe?

CUTLIP: You know, I'd like to think that they definitely have a change of heart. There's no question I'm getting people that are trying to get something for free. However, I believe in my heart that the people that I'm helping are actually doing something. The main thing for me was if I could just help one person, then maybe that person will help somebody else and then it just catch on from there.

MARTIN: Is there a throughline to the people who've come to you for help? Is it that these are things that they got when they were young?

CUTLIP: Yeah. As a matter of fact, like, one guy - he had a confederate flag with a noose at the bottom. And he said that growing up where he grew up, that's how things were and now that he has a job and has kids that he doesn't believe in that anymore, and I definitely believed him.

MARTIN: (Laughter) So before we let you go, I understand that this has kind of taken off already - that you've got a GoFundMe campaign started to connect other tattoo artists around the country who may want to replicate what you've done. What's been the response so far?

CUTLIP: To be honest with you, I never expected it to do what it did. And now that it has done what it's done, if we can just erase hate one tattoo at a time, then we're all doing something.

MARTIN: That's Dave Cutlip, tattoo artist and owner of Southside Tattoos (ph) in Brooklyn Park, Md. Dave and his team are offering free tattoo cover-ups of racist or gang-affiliated tattoos.

Dave, thanks so much for joining us.

CUTLIP: You're quite welcome. It was my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.