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Erasing Hate

Erasing Hate

For 16 years, Bryon Widner was a racist skinhead. In skinhead circles he was known as a heavy drinker and a pit bull - the enforcer who was quick to violence. And while many skinheads are known for brandishing tattoos, Bryon's appearance was especially menacing. Among his multitude of facial tattoos was an image of blood dripping from a straight edge razor (Bryan's weapon of choice). But most prominent on his face was a giant arrow extending below and above his eye. The tattoo signifies the willingness to kill for the white race.

Bryon met Julie at Nordicfest 2006, a white power music festival. They soon married and Bryan became an instant father to Julie's four children. Part of what drew Bryon and Julie together was a common bond - both were becoming disenchanted with what they saw as hypocrisy in the white power movement. Julie soon gave birth to Bryon's first biological child, a son named Tyrson.

Bryon quickly realized he couldn't raise his son around the white power movement. He slowly withdrew from his skinhead mates. Family became his priority. Finally Bryon was presented an ultimatum by his skinhead gang - us or them. Bryon chose his family. But escaping the white power movement was not easy. Bryon and Julie faced death threats and constant harassment. Bryon and Julie packed up the family and fled from Michigan to Tennessee to start a new life. But it wasn't easy.

Bryon remained haunted by the cruelty he had shown to others. His tattoos were a constant reminder of his brutal past. And Bryon's heavily inked face and neck made it nearly impossible to find work and support his family.

With financial support from the Southern Poverty Law Center, in early 2009 Bryon began the long and grueling laser tattoo removal process at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. After every treatment, Bryon's face blistered and swelled. Producers of Erasing Hate followed Bryon and Julie and family for two years, throughout the entire tattoo removal process.

The spine of the film centers on the tattoo removal procedures. Each treatment shows the extreme suffering Bryon endured, and can be seen almost as his penance for a hate filled past. Interweaved is Bryon's back story. We reveal Bryon's journey from a disenfranchised runaway teenager, to a violent skinhead, to the reasons that inspired him to escape the white power movement.

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