Tanas Geleff / by Michael Falco

Who is Tanas Geleff?

Tanas Geleff is an active member of the Calhoun County Tea Party. He has worked in a paper factory in Battle Creek for over twenty-five year and was a union rep for a number of years, though he also believes in Right to Work laws. He is a family man and believes strongly in work ethic and American ideas of self-determinism.

Excerpt from interview with Tanas Geleff by Whitney Dow, 2017

Q: Were there any specific things that you were hoping to communicate to the project when you saw what it was, about whiteness and about being a white American? Was there certain, anything you thought, “these are things that I don't often hear in the media or academia; I think I can represent this viewpoint well” –– was there something specific?

Geleff: [03:16:06] The most specific thing that I think I'd like to see come out of it is that people of color realize that just because I'm white and I'm conservative, I'm not a racist. I try and take people at face value, OK? If you want to be low life to me, you're not going to get my respect. If you want to treat me like a human being, I'm going to give you respect. But I expect it in return.

Q: Do you feel that people of color, whatever their race, misunderstand white people?

Geleff: [03:16:26] For the most part, no. More than half, no. But I feel you've probably got a certain percentage that, for whatever reason—and I don't know if it's the people they listen to, how they were brought up, I don't know—but they feel like they're victims. I don't get where they get that from. I don't understand it.

Q: I think that as Americans we all kind of agree that we had some not so great things in the past about race—that there's slavery, Jim Crow laws, before the Civil Rights movement. You and I sitting here as middle-aged white men in 2017, do we owe black people anything, the people who are living now, because of things that have happened in the past?

Geleff: [03:16:54] No. You know, you'll see news stories of people saying they want reparations for slavery. You know what? You weren't a slave. You didn't pick cotton. That was your ancestors. We tried to correct that with the Civil War, with the Civil Rights movement, and I really feel that the opportunities that are available to you in this country, if you apply yourself there's no reason why you can't be anything you want to be. And there's plenty of examples out there. Thomas Sowell, Thomas Sowell’s a great author and a great economist. Herman Cain, he ran for president back in 2012. I was going to vote for Herman Cain if he'd of got the nomination. Because he did it himself, he didn't ask somebody to do it for him.

Interview Transcript