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Former skinhead removes facial tattoos and embraces family life

Duke Tribble / AP

This combination of eight photos provided by Bill Brummel Productions shows the progress of tattoo removal treatments for former skinhead Bryon Widner. For 16 years, Widner was a glowering, swaggering, menacing vessel of savagery - an "enforcer" for some of America's most notorious and violent racist skinhead groups. Though his beliefs had changed, leaving the old life would not be easy when it was all he had known - and when his face remained a billboard of hate. (AP Photo/Duke Tribble, Courtesy of MSNBC and Bill Brummel Productions)

Jae C. Hong / AP

In this Monday, Aug. 1, 2011 photo, Bryon Widner hugs his 4-year-old son, Tyrson, at their home as his wife Julie watches. After getting married in 2006, the couple, former pillars of the white power movement (she as a member of the National Alliance, he a founder of the Vinlanders gang of skinheads) had worked hard to put their racist past behind them. They had settled down and had a baby; her younger children had embraced him as a father.

Jae C. Hong / AP

In this Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011 photo, Bryon Widner, left, and his wife are applauded in Pasadena, Calif. after the screening of a documentary film featuring their family. After getting married in 2006, the couple, former pillars of the white power movement (she as a member of the National Alliance, he a founder of the Vinlanders gang of skinheads) had worked hard to put their racist past behind them. They had settled down and had a baby; her younger children had embraced him as a father. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Here are several excerpts from the documentary made about Bryon Widner:

 

Bryon explains how becoming a father changed his life forever and inspired him to leave the skinhead movement. Byron and Julie knew they didn't want their children to be raised in the skinhead movement, and they didn't want them making the same mistakes that they'd made. "Erasing Hate" airs on Sunday, June 26 at 9pm ET on msnbc.

Bryon and Julie Widner grow disillusioned with the skinhead movement, but find that escaping is much more difficult than either ever anticipated. As Bryon puts it, 'the retirement program is either prison or the grave.'

Bryon describes the first tattoo he ever got: "I got the HATE tattooed across my knuckles when I was about 15. I always liked the word hate. I thought it was real cool at the time."

Bryon and Julie scour the newspapers each day for job leads, but quickly learn that no business wants to hire someone whose covered in racist tattoos. Through aid provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Bryon decides to undergo the grueling tattoo removal process.

From the full story:

Widner's arms and torso are still extensively tattooed. He is in the process of inking over the "political" ones, like the Nazi lightning bolts. His face is clean and scar free, and he has a shock of thick black hair. With his thin glasses and studious expression, he looks nerdy, Julie jokes.

His neck and hands have suffered some pigment damage, he gets frequent migraine headaches and he has to stay out of the sun. But, he says, "it's a small price to pay for being human again."

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