Black student claims member of college staff reported her to police for eating lunch

Oumou Kanoute/ Facebook

A sophomore student at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, has claimed that she was questioned by a 'member of staff' at the school as to if she was a student while she read and ate in a common room.

Oumou Kanoute, who is working as a residential advisor and teaching assistant for the summer, posted two videos on her Facebook page on Tuesday when she was approached by a police officer during a break.

In her Facebook post, you can see an officer approach her and ask what she is doing there. Once she says why, the officer apologises and explains why he had been called over.

She writes:

I am blown away by the fact that I cannot even sit down and eat lunch peacefully.

Today someone felt the need to call the police on me while I was sitting down reading, and eating in a common room at Smith College.

This person didn't try to bring their concerns forward to me but instead decided to call the police.

I did nothing wrong, I wasn't making any noise or bothering anyone. All I did was be black.

It's outrageous that some people question my being at Smith College and my existence overall as a woman of colour.

I was very nervous and had a complete meltdown after this incident. It's just wrong and uncalled for.

No students of colour should have to explain why they belong at prestigious white institutions.

I worked my hardest to get into Smith, and I deserve to feel safe on my campus.

In the second video, she calmly responds to the officer by highlighting how often these type of incidents are becoming in America.

It’s OK. It’s just like, the kind of stuff like this happens way too often, where people just feel threatened.

According to The Daily Dot, a school official told that someone was reported who "seemed out of place" but upon inspection campus police "found nothing suspicious about the student's presence".

In a separate Facebook post, Oumou states that a white member of staff had reported her as a "suspicious black male".

She also demands that Smith releases the name of the employee who called 911 so that "they can confront and acknowledge the harm done to me as a student".

However, the school has responded by saying that it is not policy to release the name of the caller.

In a statement on Facebook the school writes:

We have received multiple requests to release the name of the individual who called campus police.

Under college policy, any campus police records that are released must redact the names of parties involved.

This policy recognises the potentially adverse consequences of releasing identifying information, especially in those cases where doing so may discourage the use of this critical safety resource.

They also clarified that they have reached out to Oumou and that an investigation into the incident will be conducted by Human Resources and Campus Police.

Yesterday, campus police responded to a call from an employee reporting an unknown person who “seemed to be out of place” in a Smith building where the dining area was in use by the college’s summer programmes.

A campus police officer responded to the site and spoke with the individual, a Smith undergraduate student of colour, who was on a break from her on-campus job.

Campus police found nothing suspicious about the student's presence.

This incident has raised concerns in our community about bias and equity. Smith College does not tolerate race or gender-based discrimination in any form.

Such behaviour can contribute to a climate of fear, hostility and exclusion that has no place in our community.

We have reached out to the student to offer support and discuss next steps and will conduct an investigation of the incident with the employee, with human resources and with campus police.

We strongly encourage any member of the community experiencing bias in any form to immediately notify the college,

This incident is just one in a growing trend of incidents where black members of the public in the United States have been reported to the police for having BBQs, selling water or attending a public swimming pool.

HT New York Post

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