Police were called on a black college student who was eating her lunch on campus this week by a college employee who said she looked ‘out of place’ in the latest in a string of racially charged confrontations that appear to be sweeping America.
Oumou Kanoute was taking a break from her on-campus job at Smith College, a private college in Northampton, Massachusetts, on Tuesday when a white cop arrived to ask her what she was doing there.
The New Yorker is an undergraduate at the college but is spending the summer working as a teaching assistant and residential adviser on one of its summer programs.
As the students on the summer program ate in a dining hall on Tuesday, Kanoute decided to take her food to a common room and eat alone in peace.
Within minutes of sitting down, she was confronted by a white police officer who asked: ‘We were wondering what you were doing here?’ after entering the common room.
Kanoute, who filmed their exchange and put the video on Facebook, nervously responded: ‘I was just eating my lunch.’
The undergraduate student later claimed that she was told the person who called police said she looked like a ‘suspicious black male’ who was ‘out of place’.
‘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.
‘All I did was be black. It’s outrageous that some people question my being at Smith Collge, and my existence overall as a women of color.
‘I was very nervous, and had a complete meltdown after this incident. It’s just wrong and uncalled for,’ she wrote.
In a caption on her video, she wrote: ‘So I’m sitting down minding my own damn business and someone calls the cops on me.
‘This is why being black in America is scary.’
The college said the incident has raised ‘concerns’ in the community but it is refusing to name the person who made the call.
Their excuse is that it could stop others from calling the police in the future.
‘This incident has raised concerns in our community about bias and equity. Such behavior can contribute to a climate of fear, hostility and exclusion that has no place in our community.