A sophomore at Smith College in Massachusetts said that she was racially profiled while eating lunch on campus on Tuesday, CNN reports.
Oumou Kanoute said was in the common room on campus reading a book and eating when she noticed a White man and a White woman outside the room’s entrance.
She said that campus police arrived and said that someone had reported that “a Black man was demonstration suspicious behavior.”
Kanoute, a Black woman, said the incident has traumatized her to the point where she has trouble sleeping and eating.
“I have to check my closet at night now before I go to bed; I’m terrified in my own room,” she told CNN. “I don’t even feel like leaving my room sometimes. I can’t sleep or eat, and all I want is this person to understand the predicament they’ve put me in.”
Smith officials apologized to Kanoute and said that the employee who called the police was placed on leave pending an investigation.
“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,” Smith College President Kathleen McCartney said. “Clearly, we have important work to do going forward as a community.”
Kanoute wrote about and posted a video about the incident on Facebook on Tuesday saying that all she did was “be black.”
“It’s outrageous that some people question my being at Smith College, and my existence overall as a [woman] of color,” she wrote. “I was very nervous, and had a complete meltdown after this incident. It’s just wrong and uncalled for.”
CNN reports that the school released a transcript of the call that its employee made:
“Reporting Caller: I was just walking through here in the front foyer of [REDACTED] and we have a person sitting there laying down in the living room area over here. I didn’t approach her or anything but um he seems to be out of place … umm … I don’t see anybody in the building at this point and uh I don’t know what he’s doing in there just laying on the couch.”
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Teddy is a multimedia journalist who serves as the culture and political writer for EBONY. His work has appeared in NBC's Owned and Operated stations, as well as DNAInfo, which covered local neighborhood news in New York City. He received his Masters in Journalism from the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at CUNY in 2017.