In the last few weeks, more and more reports of the police being called on a person of color unnecessarily have come to the forefront of national news. In the middle of April, there was the Starbucks incident when two black men were arrested for sitting at the coffee shop without buying anything. Then, at the end of April, three black people were confronted by cops as they were checking out of their Airbnb because residents in the area thought they were burglars. And now, a white Yale student called the cops on a black student for taking a nap in her own dorm building.
According to the Huffington Post, on the night of May 7, Lolade Siyonbola, a black graduate student at Yale, was writing a paper in a common area of her dorm when she fell asleep. She then awoke to a white classmate telling her that she couldn't be there and that she was going to call the cops. Siyonbola, an African Studies student, began broadcasting what happened next on Facebook live around 2 a.m. ET.
In the first video, the woman who called the cops, who Siyonbola and the Yale Daily News identified as Sarah Braasch, is seen saying that Siyonbola did not have the right to be sleeping in that area and that Braasch had the right to call the police in response. The second video shows Siyonbola talking to the officers who responded to the call. Weirdly, Braasch is heard at the beginning of the video saying Siyonbola can't take photos of her, even though she was just taking photos of Siyonbola in the first video.
Braasch did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for comment.
After the officers asked Siyonbola to prove she belongs there, she opened her apartment instead. They said they still needed to see her ID. “I deserve to be here,” she told the police after reluctantly giving them her ID. “I pay tuition like everybody else. I’m not going to justify my existence here.”
On May 10, Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins issued a statement that seemed to confirm Siyonbola's account. "[Investigating officers] informed the caller that the student who had been in the common room was an authorized resident and had every right to be there," he wrote. "They also explained that this was not a police matter."
Siyonbola's videos took off, and since then, some Twitter users have shared their anger. Some, like author Ijeoma Oluo, took a more comedic route. In a tweet on May 10, she said:
I really hope that every black student on Yale's campus takes turns napping right in front of Sarah Braasch's door all day, every day, for the rest of the year
But others plainly shared their outrage, like Amy Siskind, president of The New Agenda, an organization focusing on women and girls. She pointed out the double-standard in requiring Siyonbola to show her ID. She wrote:
[H]ow many of your white students are forced to show the police their student ID badge while living in their own dorm? Shame on you if you don't discipline the white student who called the police, and train your campus police as well!
And lots of others tied this incident with lots of other recent incidents. So we already covered what happened with Starbucks and Airbnb, but guess what? There's more! In April, a golf course reportedly called the cops on three black women for playing too slowly. A day later, the golf course owner reportedly called the women and apologized and issued a statement saying the police were called to "to ensure an amicable result." In another incident, officers asked two men to leave a gym in New Jersey after some confusion about memberships. According to USA Today, the employees involved are no longer with LA Fitness. And then there's the two Native American boys were taken off of a college tour by police because they were "too quiet." The university apologized, according to The Guardian.
Anthea Butler, a professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, didn't hold back. She pointed out that people of color deserve to be wherever they want to be. In a tweet, she wrote:
Psst, White people: Your & your friends who keep calling the police because we are packing, moving, breathing sleeping need to understand we are not going ANYWHERE. Many of our ancestors built places like YALE. We deserve to be wherever we want to be.
Others pointed out the bigger problems these incidents represent, like user Samantha who kept it short and serious. "Some of ya'll have got to stop calling the police for dumb things, we are dying over this sh*t," she wrote.
If there's a silver lining to be found in all of this — and it's a very thin lining — it's that we're talking about it. But, at this point, talking is not nearly enough.