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The fact is, every single one of us has done something in our past that we regret. Every person makes mistakes; it's part of learning and growing. I firmly believe in the power of reinventing yourself for the better. When you know better, you can and should do better.

However, some folks make mistakes that are a little more "out there" than others, like getting a racist or gang-related tattoo. Maybe you were drunk in your cousin's garage, or maybe you were coerced into getting it by a significant other or another family member. Perhaps you were the victim of human trafficking. Or maybe you just really f-d up.

You shouldn't, and you don't, have to live with it forever. 

I reached out to the absolutely incredible tattooing community of Lubbock to find out who was willing to do free or discounted cover-up tattoos to help folks move on with their lives.

Among the many talented folks that reached out was Michael Zavala of Emerald Empire, a gorgeous shop located downtown at 1108 Main Street. I asked him why it was important for him to offer this service, and his answer is really beautiful:

As humans we carry on the tendencies of our predecessors. Some of us grow up in loving and open minded environments. While others grow up in hateful environments involving racism, homophobia, unfounded biases, heritage, sexuality, gender or gender identity, disability, or religious beliefs. Regardless of a person’s history, I feel that people deserve a second chance. It’s my belief that a person can grow and change their mindset and world views.

If you have a racist or gang-affiliated tattoo, I highly encourage you to reach out to one of the following artists. They are all extremely generous, kind people.

A couple of things to keep in mind, though: shops were closed (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and are now working on a backlog, so it may be a little while before you can be seen. Most shops are not allowing friends to come to watch (which...why do that to a person you call a friend? There's nothing more boring than watching your friend get a tattoo).

Also, depending on the size, saturation, or complexity of the piece, your options for a cover-up may be limited. Whether you get it free or discounted will likely be the result of those factors as well. If you can tip, I strongly encourage you to do so.

It should be noted that none of the work featured in the below gallery are cover-ups of racist tattoos. That would be very against the point of letting people move on with their lives. These are just to show off the skill and style of each of these amazing artists.