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The first racist tattoo Michael Kent got were the words "white pride," spanning the top of his back.

GIF via ABC News.

Then came the two swastikas — one in the center of his chest — that stained his skin for over 20 years, ABC News reported.


Kent used to be a white supremacist.

"I was part of a skinhead group," Kent, who lives in Colorado, told ABC. "A very violent group."

He believed strongly in the organization's ideals. For instance, Kent refused to work for anybody — or even with anybody — who wasn't white.

GIF via ABC News.

But one woman made him rethink everything.

Tiffany Whittier, who is black, became his parole officer. Meeting her changed his life for good.

GIF via ABC News.

She was a positive force in his life and challenged him to rethink how he viewed race and equality.

"I had a German war [Nazi] flag, and she said, 'You need to take that crap down and start putting up more positive stuff!'" Kent told ABC News. "'Put up smiley faces so when you wake up, you see positive instead of hate.'"

Her encouragement worked; Kent's outlook and attitudes have changed dramatically since befriending Whittier.

It's not necessarily surprising, either — this change in mindset goes hand-in-hand with research. A 2014 study, for example, found that when white people interact with more people of color, they're less likely to hold racist views.

"If it wasn't for her, I probably would have been seeped back into [white supremacy]," Kent explained. "I look at her as family."

Now, Kent's "white pride" and swastika tattoos have been removed by Redemption Ink, a nonprofit that offers free removals of hate-inspired designs to patrons. All of his coworkers at the Colorado chicken farm where he works — as well as most of his friends — are people of color.

“We have company parties, or they have quinceaneras, BBQs, or birthday parties — I’m the only white guy there," Kent said.

GIF via ABC News.

Whittier modestly brushed off the affect she's had on Kent: "My job is to be that positive person in someone's life," she said. "[I] try to make a difference."

But to Kent — a father to two young children — Whittier's nothing short of heroic. "She gave me the strength and the courage to do what I'm doing," he said. "She gave me a chance, and it opened my eyes."

ABC News facilitated a surprise reunion between the two, who hadn't seen each other in over a year.

Whittier was in on the plan, but Kent — who seemed a bit lost for words as he embraced her in a hug — was beyond excited to see the friend who changed his life forever.

Watch the beautiful moment in the video below:

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A former white supremacist describes the time he changed his mind and 'life after hate.'

He helped build the modern white supremacist movement. Now he's trying to tear it down.

Peace activist and founder of Life After Hate Christian Picciolini has a surprising past: He used to be a neo-Nazi.

After getting kicked out of four high schools, Picciolini became involved with Chicago Area Skinheads, the first neo-Nazi skinhead organization in the U.S., during his teens.

By the time he turned 16, Picciolini had already taken on a leadership role within the organization, helping shape the modern white supremacist movement in the U.S.

"They promised me paradise," he says. "They promised me that the bullies would go away, that my life would get better, that I’d have a family that I was looking for, and that I would have a sense of purpose."


GIFs by Upworthy.

So what made Picciolini change his mind and turn his back on the neo-Nazi movement?

His journey from extremist to activist for peace began with conversation. In the mid-1990s, Picciolini ran Chaos Records, a Chicago record store known for its collection of white power music. It was there that he first began to have meaningful interactions with some of the same people he'd spent years of his life hating. The more he spoke with them, the harder it was to justify his hateful beliefs. Soon after, he abandoned the white supremacist movement and began making amends.

Now Picciolini spends his days trying to help others leave the movement he helped create.

Through his work with Life After Hate, a group he co-founded, Picciolini helps others leave extremist movements and leave behind lives of violence and hate. For him, it's all part of an effort to right the wrongs he's committed and to make up for the harmful ideology he helped craft.

But even decades removed from his contributions to the neo-Nazi movement, some of his influence can't be undone.

Despite his efforts, Picciolini's past beliefs live on in a number of forms, including the "alt-right" movement.

The name may change, but the ideology of white supremacy remains largely the same. Even worse, these ideas that were once seen only in fringe elements of society are creeping into the cultural mainstream. That's by design, and no one understands this better than Picciolini, who says that the "alt-right" movement has a plan to bring its ideology into the mainstream. And — horrifyingly — it's working.

"Don’t get tattooed, don’t shave your head, stop wearing a Klan hood, don’t wave a swastika flag," Picciolini says of the alt-right's strategy for creating a more palatable white supremacy movement. "Wear a suit and tie, go to college, blend in and mainstream the ideology. And in fact, that’s what we’re seeing now."

That's why it's important that we collectively continue to push back against hatred in all its forms.

It's important to remember that no one is truly beyond help. Picciolini's story of ongoing redemption can teach us all a lot about what it means to own up to the mistakes of your past and to help build a better world. Hatred might live on in America, but Picciolini's story should give us hope that it can be defeated.

To learn more about Picciolini's work, you can check out Life After Hate or read his 2015 book "Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead."

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Maggiano's donates $10K to Anti-Defamation League after hosting 'alt-right' dinner.

The restaurant made a donation after playing host to a white nationalist organization.

On Friday night, managers of a Washington, D.C., chain restaurant found themselves in an almost impossible situation.

The Maggiano's location in D.C.'s Friendship Heights neighborhood played host to a group of people in town for a conference of white nationalists called the National Policy Institute (NPI). The group, which has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, espouses views that can only be described as racist and hateful.

Making matters worse, while at the restaurant, reality TV star Tila Tequila posted a picture to her Twitter account in which she and two friends did a Nazi salute. Tequila, whose Twitter account has since been suspended, has a history of anti-Semitic views and actions.


Screengrab from Twitter.

Where the NPI goes, protesters often follow — and understandably so.

NPI President Richard B. Spencer has called for "peaceful ethnic cleansing" of anyone who isn't white with European ancestry from the U.S. During the conference, held at the nearby Reagan Building, he recited Nazi propaganda in the original German and questioned whether Jews are people (spoiler alert: they are).

'Hail Trump!': Richard Spencer Speech Excerpts

“Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” is how Richard B. Spencer greeted an audience of more than 200 attendees of an alt-right conference Washington D.C. He was met with enthusiastic cheers and Nazi salutes.Read the full article: https://theatln.tc/2gxTlxG

Posted by The Atlantic on Monday, November 21, 2016

With a restaurant filled with white nationalists on the inside and a group of protesters on the outside, Maggiano's closed shop a bit early.

In a statement condemning the NPI's rhetoric, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum wrote:

"The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words. The Museum calls on all American citizens, our religious and civic leaders, and the leadership of all branches of the government to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech."

Hateful rhetoric and action has no place in this country or in this world. While so much of what what we see and hear lately comes through partisan, politicized filters, standing up to hate shouldn't have to be.

People protest the appointment of Steve Bannon to be chief strategist of the White House by President-elect Donald Trump. Photo by David McNew/AFP/Getty Images.

Free speech is one thing, but allowing a space for hate speech is not the same thing. In fact, Maggiano's initial response was a less-than-stellar nod toward a "free speech" defense.

"If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them," philosopher Karl Popper wrote of the "tolerance paradox" back in his 1945 work "The Open Societies and Its Enemies."

For Maggiano's, there was the question of what to do with the money the restaurant made hosting the NPI dinner. On Monday, the restaurant announced a $10,000 donation to the Anti-Defamation League.

The Anti-Defamation League is a civil rights organization originally created to fight discrimination against Jews. While it has expanded in scope, that remains a core tenet of the group's work. On Monday, Maggiano's indicated that they would be donating that night's profits to the ADL.

On Friday night, Maggiano’s in Friendship Heights was the inadvertent site of a protest that caused us to close our...

Posted by Maggiano's Little Italy Chevy Chase on Monday, November 21, 2016

What happened at Maggiano's serves as a blueprint for how businesses can respond to modern hate: denounce and donate.

The world is full of good people with good ideas. The world has a lot of love in it. Understandably, some people feel helpless in the election's wake, but in truth there are things you can do to push back against bad things that are happening around us. Whether it's donating to a civil rights organization or volunteering, there are still important things to be done to ensure that hateful ideas and actions are not simply accepted as a political "other side" but, rather, an unacceptable element of society.

A "love rally" march in New York on Nov. 11, 2016. Photo by Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images.

This is a new, unprecedented era in America, and it's likely we might all find ourselves accidentally involved in things or connected to things we don't endorse. Now more than ever, it's important to take steps to say "no" to hate.