First go read this article about a reformed skinhead getting his tattoos removed.
Okay it's story day.
Occasionally in my early 20's I went to randomish house parties. You know the kind where someone you know says hey there's this party and you go and blablabla.
So I went to this party where I knew some people, I must have been 22-23 and a friend pointed out a dude who kept staring at me. He was a kind of scruffy punk kid, our age or so. Neither of us could tell if it was OMG YOU'RE HOT staring or OMG BLACK PEOPLE staring.
We ignored him for the most part until we went to leave and he kind of trailed my friends and I. He walked behind us for a while and several of my friends were getting ready to put a beating on this dude for being creepy.
Then it happened.
He caught up and I turned to face him and said hello at which point he promptly burst into tears.
It was an awful moment. None of us really knew what to do so I kind of patted him awkwardly and we all migrated to someone's apartment.
We got him settled down and he asked if he could buy us beers, we said yes and then he asked if he could talk to me. I sat with him on the patio under the watchful eye of some friends.
This kid took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves to show me his badly done Nazi tattoos. Then he launched into a gut wrenching story about how he'd been a skinhead from the ages of about 13 to 20, gone to jail, got out and left the fold. He'd been harassed and threatened and beaten to the point where he came clear across the country to get away.
He said he'd been staring at me because I was the first Black person he'd been in social contact with and he wanted to tell someone of color that he was sorry. He confessed a lot of things to me. He told me he'd beaten guys up, scared girls, done other awful things and that he was working some bullshit part time job and saving up money for cover ups and tattoo removal.
Prior to that point anyone who had ever been racist was dead to me. I did not give a fuck if they had changed or not. Fuck them. Fuck them, fuck their families, fuck their children.
At first I was pissed off and resentful that for some reason he'd elected to see me as the face of all black people everywhere.
And then when I looked at his face and heard him cry. When he took my hand and squeezed it and said he was sorry over and over again, I couldn't in good conscious be mad.
The pain I saw in that young mans face was the same pain I saw in the faces of friends of mine who'd been in gangs in their youth. It wasn't any different. I saw that he held out no hope for his own future because he'd really fucked up as a kid.
I wanted to pay for him to get his tattoos fixed. I wanted to give him a good job and tell him that he wasn't a piece of shit forever.
I couldn't really do that so I did what I could. I hugged him and told him that I forgave him. Not because I was the face of Black folks everywhere but because I could see that he was in serious soul deep pain and that he needed one person to give him a chance.
I gave him a chance and we became friends. Not great friends but friendly enough that we could meet up for a beer or go to a show together. I recommended books about Black history and the truth about the civil rights movement. He explained a lot of what his life was like when he was a Skinhead.
He wasn't the only former racist or criminal that was ever in my life.
Because of him I read more about skinheads and various supremacist factions. At a certain point in my reading I realized that I feel terribly sorry for some of these people. I pity their children and I pity the people who try to get out but can't make it.
So there's your Halloween story.
I'd also like to add that when I'm fabulously rich one thing I must do is pay for cover ups or removal of gang, skinhead etc tattoos for people who want them. I wish I was a tattoo artist so I could do that work at steeply discounted prices.
It's on my bucket list.
Happy Halloween my homies.
And Happy Anniversay to Uniballer and I.
I'm tempted to say something cheesy here but I'll leave it at saying that we're still on the crazy train.