‘All I Did Was Be Black’: Someone Called The Police On A Student Lying On A Dorm Couch

“All I did was be black,” the sophomore said. “No student of color should have to explain why they belong at prestigious white institutions.”

For Oumou Kanoute, it started as an otherwise sedate afternoon at Smith College — some light reading, a blanket and a late lunch in a common room at the women’s-only liberal arts school in western Massachusetts.

But a little later, after an exceedingly apologetic campus police officer had taken his leave, Kanoute sat alone in the room, shaken.

No one had come to talk to her, and she hadn’t noticed anyone in particular pass by — but, she learned, someone had noticed her.

The person, an employee of the school, thought Kanoute looked suspicious and called police on Tuesday, saying the student and teacher’s assistant, who is black, “seems to be out of place.”

In the campus police transcript released by Smith, published below, the caller tells a dispatcher they saw a person “laying down in the living room area” and “he seems to be out of place.”

After speaking with Kanoute, the responding officer tells dispatch “that was a student relaxing in the living room.”

Kanoute has called for the identity of the caller to be released, something the school says it won’t do because of privacy laws.

The transcript released by Smith College:

July 31, 2018, 1:53 p.m.

Dispatch: Campus Police, recorded line.

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.

Dispatch: Can I have your last name please?

Reporting Caller: [REDACTED]

Dispatch: I’ll send someone over and check it out.

Reporting Caller: Alright. I’ll wait over here.

Unit Clears

Responding Officer: All clear. That was a student relaxing in the living room. They had lunch here. I guess and they decided to stay for a while.

Dispatch: Received.


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