The following is a partial transcription of an audio interview of Lull Mengesha by Gus T Renegade. The October 8 interview took place on Renegade's blogtalkradio program, "The Context of White Supremacy," and was occasioned by Mengesha's new book, The Only Black Student.
GT Renegade: I gotta do this one, because I have experienced the exact same thing. . . . [Lull Mengesha] talked in the book about how while he was a student, he had dreadlocks. I have dreadlocks now. I suspect he already knows where I'm going with this, how many times you were stopped by white -- not just random white people, but white students that you might've had a class with -- "Uh, could you hook me up with some weed?" Can you talk about that please for our listeners?
L Mengesha: Right. There's like a dual effect to that. Oftentimes students will see that you fit a Bob Marley stereotype and assume that you're a drug dealer or that you have a connect and can get them some weed. So, a lot of students would always ask me if I had any weed. And I don't smoke weed. I can see where they're going with it, you know, if they see a black student on campus, their assumption is that I'm a drug dealer.
But also, on the tail-end of that, what you'll see is when there's petitioning or tabling on campus, or really, any active things are going on, students ignore you. They won't engage in conversation with you or ask you to participate in whatever they're doing. I don't know if it has to do with the fact that they might not see you as a student, but I think those two situations play into each other. Students will see you as a drug dealer, but they also won't see you as a student.
GT Renegade: Wow. . . . I can co-sign on both of those. The weed thing was kind of startling because I had dreads for years. I'm not from Seattle. I moved here not that long ago. I had dreads in lots of other cities, and I've never had white people, just random white people that I didn't know stopping me on the street, "Hey, do you have any weed?" That was a whole new experience for me that really just, made me very uncomfortable.
L Mengesha: Is that something that you really only faced here in the Northwest?
GT Renegade: Yes sir. I have lived in California, I have lived in Georgia, I have lived in Virginia, I have left the country. I have never been anywhere where I have been stopped by random white people on a constant basis. I even -- I am not exaggerating. I was telling a white person, I was explaining this to her, and she was incredulous, she didn't believe me, she thought I was making something up.
A white person walked up in the middle of our conversation about this and said, "Hey, do you have any weed?" And I just looked at her, and she said, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe that happened!" I said, "No, you're not listening to me. This is every day!"
And so we kept talking for about ten minutes, and she said, "I can't believe he just walked up like that!" Another white person walked up: "Hey, do you have any weed?" And her mouth just hit the ground, and she said, "Oh my God! What is this?!" And I said, "This is every day." . . .
So like I said, when I read your book, I laughed, I immediately connected. And I can also connect with the tabling thing and how they ignore you for that. They assume you sell drugs, they assume that you don't want to talk about anything political, or if they're organizing to vote, or anything where you might have to use your brain--"No." In addition to that, I've seen tons of white people who smoke weed on campus, and people don't seem to bother them, or run up to ask if they sell drugs or anything like that. It's just, very, very interesting.
L Mengesha: Right. I think another thing, within the white community, probably there's no stereotype for who smokes weed. So they wouldn't know who to walk up to. But I think for the black community, I guess the stereotype is that if you have some type of Bob Marley look to you, you have like, a weed connect.
GT Renegade: Wow. And I do not, anybody who finds me in Seattle, I do not. You're talking to the wrong person!
Lull Mengesha also said during the interview that his book, The Only Black Student, will soon be available in bookstores around the country. It's available online, at Amazon and elsewhere; a review of the book recently appeared in the Seattle Times, and Mengesha was also interviewed on National Public Radio (NPR).
Gus T Renegade's online show, "The Context Of White Supremacy," includes extensive interviews with many leading experts on race, racism, and whiteness, including Tim Wise, Peggy McIntosh, Eddie Moore, Jr., Matthew Frye Jacobson, Ian F. Haney López, Noel Ignatiev, Robert Jensen and others.