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Smith College’s Racial Issues

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

A Black student claimed she was targeted for “eating while Black” at a private Massachusetts college. The problem, the incident never happened.

Back in 2018, Oumou Kanoute claimed she was bullied due to her race while eating in a lounge at Smith College. The three-year-old incidence recently refused due to the resignation of a Smith employee after a complaint of a “racially hostile environment” at the college.

While Smith may have an issue with racial tensions, Kanoute, then a rising sophomore at Smith, apparently made up her run-in with racism at the school. According to Kanoute, all she “did was be Black” when a janitor called security on her when he found her in a closed lounge in July 2018.

Yet a 35-page investigation conducted out by an outside law firm found no evidence of the incident, the New York Times reported.

While the findings were published in October 2018 they were not widely reported.

It was found that Kanoute had gone inside a cafeteria in a dormitory that was reserved for a summer camp program for young children, and not college students. Cafeteria worker Jackie Blair pointed this out to Kanoute, who apparently didn’t leave the area. Later a janitor noticed someone in the closed-off lounge area of the dorm. The janitor called security. According to the 60-year-old janitor, he couldn’t tell the person’s gender or race because it was dark. He told security that there’s someone “sitting there laying down in the living room.”

A security officer spoke with Kanoute, who recorded the encounter on video and later posted it to Facebook, The New York Post reported.

“It’s outrageous that some people question my being at Smith, and my existence overall as a woman of color,” Kanoute wrote on Facebook about the private, all-women school. Kanoute was a psychology undergraduate student. 

Smith College president Kathleen McCartney called Kanoute to apologize and placed the janitor on leave the following day, the outlet reported.

But the subsequent investigation found that there was no evidence of wrongdoing and that the janitor was following policy.

Kanoute posted a video of the incident on social media and claimed that she was the victim of racism. 

An independent law firm investigating the incident revealed there was no evidence of wrongdoing. Kanoute’s case resurfaced after an employee resigned from the school earlier this month, citing that the school had a “racially hostile environment.”

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.