Employee of Smith College Calls the Police After Seeing a Black Student in a Common Room

An employee of Smith College, the highly rated liberal arts educational institution for women in Northampton, Massachusetts, was suspended due to an incident involving a Black student. The student was sitting in a common room on campus eating her lunch. The employee, who the college has not named, called police to say that an individual who “seemed to be out of place” was on campus. The caller did not mention the person’s race and was unsure of the person’s gender.

The student, Oumou Kanoute, later posted on Facebook that “I did nothing wrong, I wasn’t making any noise or bothering anyone. All I did was be Black.” Kanoute went on to say that “no students of color should have to explain why they belong at prestigious White institutions. I worked my hardest to get into Smith, and I deserve to feel safe on campus.”

Smith College President Kathleen McCartney issued a statement that read in part: “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. It is a powerful reminder that building an inclusive, diverse and sustainable community is urgent and ongoing work.”

President McCartney’s full statement and a transcript of the 911 call to police may be viewed here.

Smith College enrolls about 2,500 undergraduate students. African Americans make up 7 percent of the student body, according to the latest data supplied to the U.S. Department of Education.


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