(NEW YORK) — A black college student is speaking out after a campus employee called the police on her to report seeing someone who appeared to be “out of place.”
Oumou Kanoute, a student at Smith College working as a teaching assistant and residential adviser, was eating lunch in a dorm common area on July 31 when an officer with the Northampton Police Department approached her.
“I did nothing wrong, I wasn’t making any noise or bothering anyone. All I did was be black,” Kanoute wrote on Facebook. “It’s outrageous that some people question my being at Smith College, and my existence overall as a women of color.”
Videos of the incident recorded by Kanoute captured audio of her interaction with the responding officer. In one video, Kanoute can be heard explaining to the officer that she was on a break and relaxing in the common area.
“No students of color should have to explain why they belong at prestigious white institutions,” Kanoute wrote.
In an interview with ABC affiliate WCVB, Kanoute said she felt she needed to speak up.
“If you see the video, I was really calm, but on the inside I wasn’t calm. I was terrified,” Kanoute said. “Hopefully you don’t have to go through that, but if you do, just be strong, be smart and just use your phone in case anything happens to you.”
Kathleen McCartney, president of Smith College, addressed the incident and publicly apologized to Kanoute.
“I begin by offering the student involved my deepest apology that this incident occurred and to assure her that she belongs in all Smith spaces,” McCartney wrote in a letter to the college. “This painful incident reminds us of the ongoing legacy of racism and bias in which people of color are targeted while simply going about the business of their daily lives.”
In response to the incident all staff members at the college will be required to participate in anti-bias training beginning this fall, McCartney wrote.
The college has also hired an independent party to investigate the incident, according to school officials. Once the investigation concludes, the university said it will determine if the employee involved will be sanctioned.
No police report was filed in the incident, as the officer found the complaint to be unfounded. The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kanoute did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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