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  • Seema

my college housemate's uncle

One of my housemates from college introduced me to her 69-year-old uncle who works in the logging and cattle industries in the upper west part of the United States. We exchanged some text messages, and he wrote, “The best way to do an interview is to come out here. I’ll bake chocolate chip cookies and we go horse back riding. There’s an old saying. The best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse.” I countered that he should come to my urban neck of the woods and I'll bake chocolate chip cookies and we'll go Metro riding. When we did the actual interview, his internet connection wasn’t strong, so we ultimately connected by phone -- no chocolate chip cookies.

We started by talking about his work. He offered, “No one wants to work in America. We raised a lot of lazy people.” When I asked him about the prompt “imagine a U.S. without racism,” he shared, “I know there’s racism… white, elitist liberals use racism to their advantage. Nothing makes me angrier than seeing Joy Behar mouth off that how you vote means you’re racist. Accusing me of racism… They don’t know me personally. They’ve invented white supremacists and white nationalism.” He referenced that there is a small group of 50 or so people in an area of his state that are white supremacists, but added, “It’s not so big.” Switching back to talking about “white, elitist liberals,” he said, “If they accuse me of racism for supporting an issue, they don’t have to research. They just say you’re voting that way because you’re racist. It benefits them to label us as goofballs.”

I asked him about groups like the Proud Boys. He said, “I don’t think they are as powerful as media says. They are a result of government favoritism toward antifa and liberal people doing everything they can to drive their agenda and they’re using violence against us.”

I asked him about January 6. He said, “I have plenty thoughts. Don’t know if I really want to get into it. It’s a mischaracterization on the media’s part. I think it was a put-up deal. Not Trump supporters. Knew well it was going to happen.” Then he stopped and said, “That’s all I’ll say. Otherwise, you might think I’m more radical than I am.”

I invited him to imagine a U.S. without racism. He said, “I guess in a magical world if there was no racism, I wouldn’t be categorized as a racist. People assume I’m a redneck cowboy, pretty damn dumb, and probably racist. They don’t know I have a girlfriend who is half-Filipino and half-Black.” I inquired what not being categorized as a racist would give him. He said it would give the opportunity to discuss issues. Right now, “I just get madder than hell.”

Later in our conversation he shared, “People assume since I’m a logger I don’t care about the environment.” He then gave me a lesson on managing the timber in national forest where he works to provide food source for the animals and prevent fires.

I circled back to the magical world we were imagining and asked him what step he and/or others can do to get there. “Now you’re asking me to invent? I’m reactionary!” he confessed. I said that I bet he has some ideas. He relented, “I just walk up to everybody and talk to them. Maybe racism happens because people are scared. They’re shy to talk to their own race and even more shy when talking to other races. That prevents people from getting to know each other.”

We spoke for 90 minutes. Afterwards, he texted me, “I had fun. Thank you for calling me It was fun… You can call again still more to talk about.” He later texted me about rodeo, his favorite sport, and wrote about the Black and Native American bronc riders and champions of the past. He said if I made it to the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) in Las Vegas, he would show me around. I wrote that I’d show him around the theater industry. He texts me photos from his neck of the woods, and I reciprocate with a photos from my environment.

a photo from my college housemate's uncle

He believes Donald Trump is not racist. "If I thought he was racist, I wouldn't have voted for him. I would have voted third party as I have done many times." His motivation for voting for Trump has to do with his perspective on environmental policies. As I listened to him, I realized he was directing his anger at his fellow white people, "white, elitist liberals," he will often text with disdain.

White on white hate?

We continue to exchange photos, info about our respective work, news links, perspectives and opinions via text message.

We disagree on a number of things. I think we infuriate one another at times.

But he has texted "I appreciate your insightful questioning observation."

And I have texted "I appreciate hearing your thoughts."

I told a friend of mine about these exchanges. She said, "Sounds like you kinda like this guy."

I do look forward to his texts every day.

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