A Canadian man once involved white supremacist groups is making up for his hateful past by painting over racist graffiti in his neighborhood.
Nicky Cooper, 47, of Chilliwack, British Columbia, said he noticed a trend of some concerning graffiti popping up in his area lately.
When he noticed more serious white supremacist symbols spray painted near a First Nations reserve, he decided to take action.
“I see it and I think, ‘Oh that’s awful. Maybe someone should go and paint over it,’” Cooper told InsideEdition.com. “Then I thought to myself, I had just had the house painted, I had some paint lying around. I wasn’t doing nothing, maybe I’ll jump in the car and do it myself.”
Cooper went viral for his good deed last month, when he shared photos of the painted-over symbols with the caption, “Goodbye racist graffiti not in my town thank you.”
However, Cooper admitted he was not always so tolerant of others.
“Many years ago, when I was living in London, England, I was involved in hate groups,” Cooper said. “I made mistakes. I was a kid – I was 20 years old. I didn’t really understand what was going on. Someone gave me a leaflet from a hate group and I read it and it made a lot of sense. When you start on that path, you keep going deeper and deeper into that hole.”
Everything changed 16 years ago when his wife was about to give birth to their first daughter.
“My wife was about to have a baby [and] I went into the hospital with a terrible attitude. There was a black nurse in there, and I was quite rude to her,” he explained, adding the doctor that would deliver the baby was also a woman of color.
After 36 hours in labor, doctors realized the baby wasn’t breathing and his wife needed an emergency C-section.
“We got rushed in and I watched this medical team who I’d been rude to basically save my daughter’s life,” Cooper said. “When I left the room, I was in tears, honestly. The nurse came in, she brought me a cup of tea and she sat down with me. I said I was sorry, and she said she didn’t care – she was just there to help me.”
After that moment, he started to part ways with his friends affiliated with the hate group, using family obligations as an excuse to stop attending gatherings.
“It was a horrible time because you’re still dealing with people who are former friends but you really don’t agree with them anymore or their ideology,” he explained. “At that point I realized. What am I doing,? I can’t be around them in the local area, so we decided for a fresh start.”
He, his wife, and three kids, including a 6-month-old son, resettled in Canada, and he has since used his dark past to be more proactive about racism in his community, joining local clubs that support diversity and support groups for former extremists.
“My opinion changed and since then, I’ve always tried to combat hate in whatever way I can,” he explained.
However, he has also faced the risk of deportation since his move to Canada because of his past.
Cooper explained the hate group he was once involved in has since been classified a political terrorist organization, and he continues to go back and forth with the government on his immigration status.
“I really think people do change,” he said. “If people have proven they deserve a second chance, just give them a second chance.“