Redemption; A Reformed Neo-Nazi Skinhead removes years of tattoos and Hate to gain a New Life
A reformed skinhead, Bryon Widner was desperate to rid himself of the racist tattoos that covered his face, so desperate that he was willing to endure months of pain.
People grabbed their children when Bryon Widner swaggered into a store, lowered their voices when he entered a restaurant, sidled away when he strode up to a bar.
He reveled in it — the fear he inspired, the power. It made him feel like Superman.
He had symbols of racist violence carved into his face and the letters HATE stamped across the knuckles of his right hand — the hand that knocked out countless victims, sometimes leaving their teeth embedded in his skin. “Blood & Honour” was tattooed across his neck, “Thug Reich” across his belly, swastikas adorned his shaved scalp. On his forehead, a thick, black, upward-pointing arrow symbolized his willingness to die for his race.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Bryon Widner was a skinhead thug until he found love, and turned away from racism and violence. But how could he build a new life with a face stained by racist tattoos? First of two parts.
For 16 years, Widner was a glowering, strutting, menacing vessel of hate — an “enforcer” for some of America’s most notorious and violent racist skinhead groups.
Hellbent on destruction, he was living to die, though even during the bloodiest beat-downs he knew he was unlikely to lose his life as a warrior in the glorious race war promoted by the white power movement.
“It was more likely to be a bullet through the head,” he says, grimly.
By the time he was 30, Widner had spent a total of four years in jail, accused of murder and other charges, though he was never convicted of a major crime. Victim intimidation, he says, took care of that.
And then he met Julie Larsen.
Like Widner, Larsen’s arms and legs were covered with neo-Nazi symbols — iron crosses, a Totenkopf skull, axes crossed into a swastika, the Nazi salute “sieg heil.” She posted regularly on the Internet forum, Stormfront. Its motto: “White Pride, World Wide.”
And she was active in The National Alliance, a once-powerful white supremacist organization founded by William Pierce, whose writings called for the extermination of Jews and the violent overthrow of the Federal government — and had inspired the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building that left 168 people dead.
But by her 30s, the single mother of four was questioning her racist beliefs. She grew tired of telling her children they couldn’t watch certain Walt Disney movies because Hollywood was controlled by Jews, or listen to rap music, or eat Chinese or Mexican food. After struggling to put an abusive marriage to a skinhead behind her, she yearned for something simpler.
“I just wanted a normal family life,” she said.
And to his great surprise, Widner discovered that was what he wanted, too.