We're back to talking about tattoos again?

I thought this argument was done years ago. Either you like 'em or you don't. But they're not going anywhere. And, like it or not, they're present in just about every aspect of society.

AOL Fanhouse columnist David Whitley reignited the debate recently when he criticized San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's tattoos. After Whitley, a columnist with a national following, compared Kaepernick to a prison inmate, he was savaged on the Internet and called a racist. Whitley defended himself, pointing out that he has two adopted black daughters and insisting that his views on tattoos are a generational thing. If you've ever done a story about a man who started getting tattoos as a senior citizen, as I have, you'll find that excuse doesn't cut it.

I know plenty of suburban middle-aged men -- and women -- who have tattoos, want tattoos or want to get more tattoos. I know retired suburbanites who recently got tattoos. I have tattoos. They have been mainstream for at least two decades, so the generational defense is a bit hollow -- especially for someone who covers sports.

Style factor

But hey, if you don't like them, you don't like them. Personally, I don't care for Kaepernick's tattoos.

For one thing, there is hardly any color, and there is a lot of writing (mostly Bible verses, from what I understand, which is OK by me but certainly goes against the inmate analogy). You could scribble 100 words on your bicep about how you think Tony Hicks is the best-looking, most brilliant man you've ever met, and I probably wouldn't like it.


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OK, that's not entirely true.

Whitley can say he wasn't being racist, but he was essentially, insinuating that Kaepernick, a mixed-race former honors student, is modeling his body art after criminals. "Approximately 98.7 percent of the inmates at California's state prison have tattoos," he wrote, according to the New York Daily News. "I'm also pretty sure less than 1.3 percent of NFL quarterbacks have tattoos. There's a reason for that."

They're afraid of needles?

Stereotyping

Never mind that he pulled those blatantly inaccurate (at least in the case of NFL quarterbacks) numbers out of thin air. Whitley compared the quarterback position to that of a high-profile CEO: "And you don't want your CEO to look like he just got paroled."

Right. All quarterbacks want to look like all the clean-cut, well-dressed, camera-ready CEOs who look wonderful while they're testifying before Congress or being led away in handcuffs for insider trading.

I get the tattoo stereotype -- sailors and bikers have them (though I don't know how we constantly honor all those sailors who sacrificed themselves for our country while simultaneously using them as a visual for an ugly stereotype). But the fact is that the concept has evolved. I went to a tattoo convention once and saw things I didn't know could go on a human (I had to stop a guy to look at the exact replica of a George Sumner marinescape covering his shoulder).

We use clothes, jewelry, makeup, facial hair, cars, landscaping, etc., to show the world who we are. Tattoos are an extension of that. It's time to grow up and get over the preconceptions. You don't have to like them -- just like I don't have to like your shoes. But it's a personal choice, and it should be respected.

Contact Tony Hicks at thicks@bayareanewsgroup.com, at Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.TonyHicks, or at Twitter.com/insertfoot.