In early August, Oumou Kanoute, a rising sophomore at Smith College, was reported to campus police while eating lunch. The incident renewed concerns that this form of racial profiling—victims are said to be targeted and interrogated for “Living While Black”—continues to pervade all spaces of American life, including college campuses. The ACLU is now formally representing Kanoute and issued the following statement:
“As educational institutions welcome students back for a new school year, it’s important they take action to prevent their police forces from being used to weaponize racial biases. Students of all backgrounds should feel comfortable existing on a campus where they live and work.
“The ACLU will help Oumou seek a restorative justice process with both individuals involved in the incident, as well as policy changes from Smith College, including new policies and training to prevent what Oumou experienced from being repeated; and further steps to address the history of Black students and the legacy of institutional racism at Smith.
“Students should be able to eat lunch without being reported under suspicion of ‘not belonging.’ Students should be able to nap in common areas after arduous academic studies without accusations. And prospective students should be able to visit a campus without being questioned by police. We hope these grave mistreatments serve as teachable moments for schools nationwide.”