The Tattoo Artist Covering Up People’s Dark Past

Tattoo artist, Dave Cutlip, is working to erase hate from the world one tattoo at a time.

June-2017-Heroes-tattoo-artist-covering-dark-past-Linda-DavidsonThe-Washington-PostGetty-ImagesLinda Davidson/The Washington Post/Getty Images

The man who walked into Dave Cutlip’s tattoo parlor, in Brooklyn Park, Maryland, in January was tough to miss. His face bore a gang tattoo. The man sought Cutlip’s help in literally covering up his violent past. “I could see the hurt in his eyes,” Cutlip, 49, told the Washington Post. Here’s some advice on picking the perfect tattoo.

Cutlip couldn’t help the man—the tattoos were too close to the eyes. But it got him thinking. Many young people get tattoos that they come to regret. A few, like the Gangbanger’s, can mark them for the rest of their days. Then they’re “always going to be a victim,” said Cutlip. “If I can help, that’s my ultimate goal.”

Inking over a tattoo costs hundreds of dollars, and getting one removed by laser is even pricier. So Cutlip decided he would help by hiding racist or gang-related tattoos for free. He put the word out via Facebook: “Sometimes people make bad choices and sometimes people change. We believe there is enough hate in this world, and we want to make a difference.”

One man, Casey Schaeffer, showed up with the word white on one forearm and power on the other. He’d served a year in prison on assault charges, he told The Post, and had hooked up with a white supremacist group there because they “took care of me. I thought of it as paying them back.” But potential employers would take one look at the tattoos and turn him down. So he had Cutlip obscure one of the words with a heart and roses and tattoo a hawk over the other. Make sure you ask yourself these questions before getting a tattoo.

Cutlip has done nine such jobs, each of which took several hours. He told People that a client let him know that he quickly found a job once his tattoo was obscured. Such victories prompted Cutlip to found the Random Acts of Tattoo project with three like-minded tattoo studios from around the country, and now hundreds of potential clients are on a wait list. As he told NPR, “If we can just erase hate one tattoo at a time, then we’re doing something.”

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Andy Simmons
Andy Simmons is a features editor at Reader's Digest.