NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tattoo artists in Nashville are using their skills in ink to help in the fight against racial injustice by covering up racist tattoos for free.
Colby Hunter of Sage & Serpent Tattoo in Inglewood announced on Facebook last week that he can cover up racist tattoos for free for people who truly had a change of heart. He was inspired by another artist in Ohio and a different tattoo shop in Nashville.
"This is something I'm able and capable of doing," Hunter said. "If they have made that turn in their lives and want to change their ways, I want to help out and make time for it."
According to Hunter, tattoos considered racist include swastikas and SS bolts. The Anti-Defamation League lists more than 200 hate symbols in an online database. While he hasn't received any requests so far, Hunter stressed a vetting process is in place.
"I would like to hear people's story. It's not just free cover-ups for people who are actively racist. They can stay at home and I won't do anything for them," Hunter added.
While other artists across the country are doing the same thing, not everyone agrees with the approach. Elisheba Mrozik of One Drop Ink Tattoo Parlour & Gallery said there needs to be more action and accountability. Mrozik responded to inquiries about the free tattoos with a Facebook video that opposed the idea.
"I get people want to help, but rewarding someone who has been a racist and taken the time and the pain and the money to spend on getting a piece of work to put on their body just to show how much they hate a specific group of people should not be rewarded," she said.
Mrozik made a name for herself as the first black licensed tattoo artist in Nashville in 2011. She said while the tattoo industry is rebellious in nature, it's also notorious for not valuing dark-skinned artists or clients.
On top of just being nice and willing to listen, Mrozik urged other artists to help by offering tattoos to people with dark skin who they may have denied in the past and provide apprenticeship to black artists.
Mrozik isn't against covering up the racist tattoos but said more needs to be done like what Safe House Tattoo on Gallatin Pike is doing.
Owner Ian White originally offered to cover the racist tattoos for free but changed directions after watching Mrozik's video. He followed up with a second post on social media that said as a business, the shop doesn't want to forget the struggle of Black Lives Matter and acknowledged the need to better show diversity of clients through portfolios.
White told NewsChannel 5 that he'd still like to make racist tattoos disappear, but changed the vetting process that requires a $100 donation to one of many groups supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. In a statement, he said while the shop had good intentions to be "anti-racism" with the approach, he wished to have stepped back and listened longer.
"It's a perfect way to give that person an action to show they're about change and not just out here for a free tattoo," Mrozik said.
White said he hasn't received any requests since the original post.