Cops Called on Student Eating Lunch: 'All I Did Was Be Black'

Someone called Smith College cops to check on Oumou Kanoute
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 3, 2018 8:00 AM CDT
Eating Lunch While Black? A College Apologizes
Oumou Kanoute wants the person who called to report her IDed and fired.   (Getty Images/Ridofranz)

A Massachusetts college president is apologizing after campus police were called to investigate an undergraduate black student quietly eating her lunch in a common room. Smith College President Kathleen McCartney says in a letter Thursday the college is hiring a "third-party investigator" to review the incident and that every Smith staff member will undergo mandatory anti-bias training. Officials say an employee at the Northampton college called 911 Tuesday to report someone appeared "out of place" in the building, the AP reports. The school says there was nothing suspicious. The New York Times identifies the student as Oumou Kanoute, who says she was on break from work when she was approached by a campus police officer, who quickly surmised nothing was amiss.

"I am blown away at the fact that i cannot even sit down and eat lunch peacefully," Kanoute wrote on Facebook, including two short video clips of her interaction with the police officer. "I did nothing wrong, I wasn't making any noise or bothering anyone. All I did was be black." Kanoute adds she had a "complete meltdown" following this "wrong and uncalled for" incident. "No students of color should have to explain why they belong at prestigious white institutions," she noted. "I worked my hardest to get into Smith, and I deserve to feel safe on my campus." Kanoute also tells CBS Boston she wants the person who called to report her—she says police told her it was an employee at Smith—identified and fired. McCartney has apologized to Kanoute, a rising sophomore who's spending the summer as a teaching assistant working with high school students in a Smith STEM program.

(More racism stories.)

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