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Meet the man eradicating racial slurs one offensive tattoo at a time

Tattoo artist Dave Cutlip donates his time to help people cover up racist, offensive or gangland markings they’ve come to regret.

Tattoo parlour owner Dave Cutlip, left, works on covering up a racist tattoo on the arm of Randy Stiles – who got it when he was “young and dumb”, he says
Courtesy Barry Kough / The Lewiston Tribune
Tattoo parlour owner Dave Cutlip, left, works on covering up a racist tattoo on the arm of Randy Stiles – who got it when he was “young and dumb”, he says
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The man who walked into Dave Cutlip’s tattoo parlour in Maryland, US, in January 2017 was tough to miss. His face bore a gang tattoo. The man sought Cutlip’s help in literally covering up his violent past. “I could see the hurt in his eyes,” Cutlip, 49, told the Washington Post.
 
Cutlip couldn’t help the man – the tattoos were too close to the eyes. But it got him thinking. Many young people get tattoos that they come to regret. A few, such as gang identification marks, can mark them for the rest of their days. Then they’re “always going to be a victim,” said Cutlip. “If I can help, that’s my ultimate goal.”
 
Inking over a tattoo costs hundreds of dollars, and getting one removed by laser is even pricier. So Cutlip decided he would help by hiding racist or gang-related tattoos for free. He put the word out via Facebook: “Sometimes people change. We believe there is enough hate in this world, and we want to make a difference.”
 
One man, Casey Schaeffer, showed up with the word white on one forearm and power on the other. He’d served a year in prison on assault charges, he told the Post, and had hooked up with a white supremacist group there because they “took care of me. I thought of it as paying them back.”
 
But potential employers would take one look at the tattoos and turn him down. So he had Cutlip obscure one of the words with a heart and roses and tattooed a hawk over the other.
 
Cutlip has done nine such jobs, each of which took several hours. He told People that a client let him know that he quickly found a job once his tattoo was obscured. Such victories prompted Cutlip to found the Random Acts of Tattoo project with three likeminded tattoo studios from around the country, and now hundreds of potential clients are on a waiting list.
 
As he told National Public Radio, “If we can just erase hate one tattoo at a time, then we’re doing something.”

While Cutlip is doing his part, there are ways in which we can all do ours. Check out this new research that posits an actual solution to prejudice and overt racism
 


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