SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Joe Tornello has displayed the confederate flag on his right arm for 40 years.
“I was 18 years old. It was one of my first tattoos. My favorite band back then was Lynyrd Skynyrd and they unfurled the big flag on the stage every night,” said Tornello.’
Once an inked-up president of a motorcycle club, Tornello is now a grandfather of 13 with nieces, nephews, and cousins of all different backgrounds.
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“If I have that talk with them, what are they going to think? That my grandfather is OK with that? And I’m not Ok with that and that’s why I’m here,” said Tornello.
He says the flag he once displayed, unaware of its potential impact, wasn’t what it is today.
“Through the years, it’s changed and I’m not the person that represents,” said Tornello.
Vinny Valenzuela, a tattoo artist at American Graffiti in Sacramento, has covered up just about every hate symbol you can imagine.
“I’m not one to judge, I understand we all make mistakes when we’re young,” said Valenzuela.
It’s an intricate process. Valenzuela designs the finished product digitally, making sure any remnants of an old tattoo will be gone forever.
“I’ve seen what racism does on a generational level and I just feel like I need to do my part, I feel like everybody should do their part if it’s upon them,” said Valenzuela.
While Tornello has wanted to cover up the confederate flag on his arm for years, he admits today’s push for change pushed him to make the move.
“I support all the things that are going on right now. It’s time for our country to change,” said Tornello.
They both say, even if only a small part, they hope they can both be part of the healing that’s needed right now.