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He tattooed a hate symbol on his chest. Fifteen years later, man says he's changed in viral post

"I had a lot of hate in my heart," he said. "I really am sorry."

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An Ohio man is garnering international attention after sharing his story of overcoming racism, but not in the way you might think.

For 15 years, a large swastika covered part of Dickie Marcum's chest.

"I had a lot of hate in my heart from all the way as a small child. There were certain things that were OK in my house. And I'm not blaming my parents, because I have my own mind. I could have grown up and realized, but I never allowed that to happen," he said.

He says that hatred, racism and bigotry grew stronger during his teen years. At 19, he got a tattoo of a symbol of hate on his chest.

Fifteen years later, he said that tattoo no longer reflects the man he was at 19. Instead, he is a product of changing his beliefs and retraining how he thinks. He said the tattoo has been a shameful reminder of who he was.

"Back then I thought this is me for life, and it doesn't have to be," he said. "It doesn't have to be for anybody."

Marcum found out last week that a nearby tattoo shop was offering free coverups on hateful or racist tattoos. He had his tattoo covered on Juneteenth.

"The second I saw it, I felt free," he said. "It was so overwhelming, I cried in front of two men I didn't know."

A large rose now covers an image that brought him shame for more than a decade.

"A rose represents love, growth, and I think it's a perfect representation for who I am now," Marcum said.

He told his story on Facebook in a post that has since been shared more than 19,000 times.

"I'm really sorry. I'm sorry to everyone I hurt. I'm sorry for everything I've done in the past," he wrote. "I kept the tattoo for a long time as punishment for ever getting it."

Marcum said he has been flooded with positive messages as well as negative ones. He said that alone is proof that racism still exists.

"The problem is it's not just private racism in individual homes. It's systemic," he said. "Would you rather feel free or would you rather be filled with hate?"

Marcum said he is proof that it is never too late to change. He wants to channel the attention he is receiving right now into positive change, encouraging people to stand up against racism and help elevate Black voices during this time.

"We all need to stand together hand in hand and fight this," he said. "We need to destroy racism. 100%. And if it starts with just a nobody from Cincinnati getting a tattoo covered up, then so be it."