Tattoo regret can be quite common, what was once quite fashionable can end up a future embarrassment. But what if the source of embarrassment is not just a dodgy tattoo design but something more telling. What if your tattoo was a public display of a juvenile or ill informed act of distasteful rebellion? What if your tattoo was a hate symbol or racist icon?
At a time when the world is trying to unite and break down divisions, Beneath the Ink is a documentary of redemption that demonstrates that people can change and something as simple as a tattoo can give someone a chance of a fresh start in life.
Directed by Cy Dodson, the 12 minute short focuses on Ohio tattoo artist Billy Joe White and his campaign for positive action against racism. Inspired by the events of Charlottesville, White asked himself how he could contribute to eradicating this racism from the world – his answer was simple – remove the symbols of hate. White now offers coverup tattoos of Swastikas, KKK symbols and other racist tattoos for free.
White works out of Red Rose Tattoo Studio in Ohio. We get to meet some of his clientele and the last remnants of their past indiscretions; the distasteful racist tattoos they now want to cover up. Initially when viewing the documentary the sceptic in you will question why people want to get the cover up, is it the opportunity for a free tattoo or have they actually changed? But after hearing their stories your left with no doubt.
First up is Amber, she was there to get a swastika on her foot covered. She tells us that she originally got the tattoo when she was in an abusive relationship with an ex boyfriend. He was a white suprematist and through mental and physical abuse she began to take on his beliefs. She has since turned her life around and now works in daycare and looks after two kids of mixed race. The tattoo is a daily embarrassment to her.
Next is Johns story. John was born into a family of racists and grew up full of hatred towards everything. At 16, Johns father committed suicide which pushed him deeper into the subculture and culminated with him getting a huge burning cross on his back. John left those ideals behind at 27 and a few years later with his ex wife adopted a son. His son happened to be black. Now John doesn’t want his son growing up thinking his father was part of that lifestyle.
The documentary beautifully depicts how a tattoo can transform someone not just physically but spiritually. It has gone on to win numerous awards including being nominated for an Emmy. As for Billy Joe, he continues his work to this day and is currently building a database of shops that are willing to provide the same service to anybody that wants to change their life around. If you believe you can help, please reach out to Red Rose Tattoo Studio.