Police Called to Check on Black Student Eating Lunch at Smith College Because She Seemed ‘Out of Place’

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts college is investigating after campus police were called to investigate a Black student who was quietly eating her lunch in a common room.

Officials say an employee at Smith College in Northampton called police Tuesday to report that someone appeared “out of place” in the building.

The school later released a statement saying there was nothing suspicious at all about the undergraduate student, who is working on campus this summer as a teaching assistant.

Oumou Kanoute

Smith College student Oumou Kanoute was eating in the common area when the cops were called. (Credit: Oumou’s Facebook page)

Oumou Kanoute, who identified herself as the student, later posted on Facebook that it was outrageous she could not sit down and eat her lunch in peace. Kanoute shared two brief video clips of the incident, telling her followers that all she did was “be black.” Now the student is hoping to hold the staffer who called 911 accountable and is calling on anyone to help put pressure on the administration.

“My name is Oumou Kanoute, a student at Smith College working over the summer for the school as a teaching assistant and residential advisor. I’m sending this message because there was a recent incident in which a white staff member at the school reported me to the police as a suspicious black male sitting in the common room. I demanded that the administration share the name of the person who made the 9-1-1 call so that they can confront and acknowledge the harm done to me as s student.

Smith College routinely outsources their summer security to the Northampton Police Department, so it was particularly traumatizing to realize that someone with a lethal weapon, and the full authority of the state of Massachusetts might have been called to respond to the incident.

I’d appreciate any message you could send to your followers in order to put pressure on the administration to respond to my demand of identifying the 9-1-1 caller. It’s the summer, so Smith College tends to dismiss these issues and they go unaddressed for the remainder of the school year.”

A school diversity official says the college is reviewing the incident. “This incident has raised concerns in our community about bias and equity,” diversity director Amy Hunter said in a statement. “Smith College does not tolerate race- or gender-based discrimination in any form.”


Associated Press contributed to this story.

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