Sometimes, when you are treated so poorly by another person’s, you unfairly form an opinion about an entire race based on that one experience.
Most would call this ignorance, but unfortunately, it’s still going on today. When one particular man from Pennsylvania had a traumatizing experience with one race, he swore to himself that he would hate all of them forever…
Who was Michael Kent?
Michael Kent grew up in a mostly black neighborhood in Erie, Pennsylvania. He was bullied by black children and when he was young, his mother was assaulted by a black man.
Forming His Opinion
Michael said that a man broke into his mother’s window and climbed on top of her but she drew out a gun and started shooting him. Michael was only 6 or 7 when this happened, so he started to see black people in a negative way…
Michael’s hatred towards black people started growing stronger over time and he eventually became a full-fledged racist. In the 1990’s, he started to join demonstrations, including a neo-Nazi rally and his goal became to destroy people’s lives that weren’t like him.
It Got Him In Trouble
Michael would do this by both recruiting others into his racist lifestyle and by fighting with people of other races. Due to this, over the next few years, he found himself in and out of prison…
Things Got Worse
In the early 2000’s, Michael was put in jail for the first time for dangerous drug violations, theft, trafficking stolen property and promoting prison contraband. He was later imprisoned on a weapons charge when he was a felon and tried to commit suicide with a gun!
Michael was sent back to prison and became very depressed. He decided to get Nazi tattoos from other inmates. They melted down chess pieces, hair grease and styrofoam cups, and mixed the soot with soap, only to inject it into the skin with sharp guitar strings…
It was painful, needless to say, but Michael did it anyway. He got three neo-Nazi tattoos, which included: the white supremacist symbol “1488” on the back of his neck, the swastikas on his neck and chest and a “WHITE PRIDE” banner stretching from shoulder to shoulder. Michael was very proud of his “art.”
Their Real Meaning
Before the Nazi’s used the swastika symbol, it was considered a good luck charm. But, today, swastika tattoos can get you in a lot of trouble as they are a clear representation of racism…
In 2006, Michael was finally released from prison and he was assigned probation officers to keep him on track. These officers usually visited Kent in pairs, until one day, an officer showed up to his house alone.
Officer Tiffany Whittier
Officer Tiffany Whittier worked as a probation officer in Pinal County, Arizona, and she was assigned to handle Michael’s case. When she knocked at Michael’s door, he was pleasantly surprised…
She Was Different
Michael was used to his probation officers spending a brief time in his home, but Officer Whittier stayed longer than expected. She took her job very seriously, making sure that Michael didn’t violate his probation and wind up back in prison.
When she arrived at Michael’s house, Officer Whittier noticed it was cluttered with Nazi gear. He had a decal that read “extreme hatred” over an image of Adolf Hitler, with a swastika and Nazi Germany’s iron cross. There were also German war flags. Officer Whittier was speechless…
She looked straight into Michael’s eyes and asked: “Why?” and he responded: “This is me- take it or leave it.” Despite the fact that it wasn’t her job to judge him, Officer Whittier could not stay silent.
Michael continued to offend Officer Whittier with every trip she made to his home and on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he asked: “Why are you working on James Earl Ray Day?” Officer Whittier was very offended and told Michael that his remarks were inappropriate.
Another time, Officer Whittier half-jokingly told Michael that he should replace his Nazi symbols with smiley faces because his nickname was smiley. After thinking about it, Michael believed it made a lot of sense.
He decided to go to Redemption Ink, a non-profit tattoo shop that offers free removals of hate-related tattoos. The whole process took 15 hours and it was in a sterile environment. This wasn’t something Michael was used to as he had gotten his tattoos in prison.
Michael covered his racist tattoos with smiley faces and says: “When you wake up and see a smiley face, you’re going to go to work and you’re going to smile.” But, getting rid of his racist tattoos wasn’t the only thing Officer Whittier inspired Kent to do.
She also convinced him to take down the Nazi flags in his living room and replace them with smiley faces. Little by little, Michael was chipping away at his racist views that he has had since he was 7 years old. He owes it all to Officer Whittier…
Officer Whittier Was His Angel
After all that she has done for him, Michael believes if it wasn’t for Officer Whittier, he would never have changed his views about white supremacy. “Before all of this, I wouldn’t work for anybody or with anybody that wasn’t white,” Michael said.
A New Man
“Now we have company parties, and I’m the only white guy here.” Michael works full-time on a chicken farm in Colorado, where all his co-workers are Hispanic. He is thankful to Officer Whittier for the respect she showed him that made him want to take down the Nazi symbols. He also did it out of respect for her.