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A Black undergraduate student at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, says she was targeted by a “staff member” of the college who called police on her while she was eating lunch, MassLive.com reports.
Oumuo Kanoute, the student, is working as a residential advisor and teaching assistant for the summer. On Tuesday, she was taking a break from work to eat lunch in a common area on campus when she was approached by a police officer.
Kanoute said in a Facebook post the 911 caller described her as a “Black male.” A school official told MassLive.com that an employee reported someone who “seemed to be out of place” but that campus police “found nothing suspicious about the student’s presence.”
I am blown away at the fact that i cannot even sit down and eat lunch peacefully. Today someone felt the need to call…
“I am blown away at the fact that I cannot even sit down and eat lunch peacefully. I did nothing wrong, I wasn’t making any noise or bothering anyone. All I did was be black,” Kanoute wrote in a Facebook post following the incident. She said the incident caused her to have a “complete meltdown.”
“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.”
Tuesday’s incident sparked outrage and concern among the Smith College community.
School officials posted a statement to Facebook responding to the incident, saying it “has raised concerns in our community about bias and equity.”
“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,” the statement said.
In a later post, Kanoute wrote that she demanded the employee who called authorities on her be identified. The Smith College account commented on the post and said that according to school policy, campus police records must redact the names of parties involved.
Onaje McDowelle is an editorial intern for the Daily Dot. He is studying journalism and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. His work has appeared in Austin Monthly magazine, GoodMusicAllDay, and Orange magazine.