A rising sophomore at Smith College says a white staffer questioned whether she was actually a student and called the cops on her for sitting down to read and eat in a common room.
“All I did was be black,” Oumou Kanoute wrote on Facebook about the troubling Tuesday incident at the private, all-woman liberal arts college in Northampton, Mass.
In a video posted on Facebook, Kanoute captured the moment someone off-camera approaches her and asks her what she’s doing in the room.
“Well, I was eating lunch, I’m working the summer program,” she responds calmly, her voice shaking slightly. “I was just relaxing on the couch.”
In her post, Kanoute wrote that she’s working at the school over the summer as a teaching assistant and resident adviser.
“I am blown away at the fact that I cannot even sit down and eat lunch peacefully,” she wrote. “Today someone felt the need to call the police on me while I was sitting down reading, and eating in a common room at the Massachusetts school. 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,” she added.
Kanoute said it was “outrageous” that someone would question her presence at the school based on her race.
“No student of color should have to explain why they belong at prestigious white institutions,” she wrote. “I worked my hardest to get into Smith, and I deserve to feel safe on my campus.”
Kanoute said the racist staff member reported her as a “suspicious black male sitting in the common room.”
Another video she posted shows an unarmed campus police officer apologizing to her about the situation.
“It’s OK,” she says. “It’s just like, the kind of stuff like this happens way too often, where people just feel threatened.”
Kanoute demanded that Smith release the name of the staffer who reported her for no reason, so that “they can confront and acknowledge the harm done to me as a student.”
The school said its policy prevents it from releasing the name of the caller.
In a statement on Wednesday, Smith College said that there was “nothing suspicious about the student’s presence” and said the behavior of the caller “has no place in our community.”
With Post wires
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