Campus Reform | Black activists tell Smith College to 'rethink' handling of supposed racial profiling incident

Black activists tell Smith College to 'rethink' handling of supposed racial profiling incident

A group of Black professors, nonprofit leaders, and organization leaders recently sent a letter to Smith College President Kathleen McCartney urging her to “rethink how you have handled this situation.”

The letter refers to an incident in 2018 where an African American student accused a white staff member of calling campus security on her due to her race.

A group of Black professors, nonprofit leaders, and organization leaders recently sent a letter to Smith College President Kathleen McCartney urging her to “rethink how you have handled this situation.”

The letter refers to an incident in 2018 where an African American student accused a white staff member of calling campus security on her because of racial bias.

An investigation of the incident revealed there was no bias involved. Smith college refused to publicly apologize to the accused, and rather decided to double down on shaming its service workers.

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Smith college forced its service workers to “publicly ‘cleanse’ themselves through a series of humiliating exercises in order to keep their jobs,” says the letter. “Smith College assumed that every one of the people who prepare its food and clean its facilities was guilty of the vile sin of racism.”

The letter was sent by Bob Woodson, founder of 1776 Unites, a non-partisan group of activists, writers, and thought leaders. The letter was signed by 44 other black activists.

Many of the co-signers of the letter were involved in civil rights movements and are outraged at the way Smith college handled this situation. “We didn’t march so that Americans of any race could be presumed guilty and punished for false accusations while the elite institution that employed them cowered in fear of a social media mob,” Woodson said.

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The letter also says that training programs reducing Black Americans to simply a racial category, like the ones required for Smith college service workers, are “profoundly condescending and dehumanizing” and actually serve to increase racism. Such training programs teach students of color, he said, to “process every one of life’s difficulties through the lens of race.”

The letter points out the double standard that many Universities hold when it comes to race-related issues. 

“Imagine an institution that responded to an allegation of theft by a Black employee by searching the pockets of all its Black employees before they left the workplace,” Woodson continued. “Then after an investigation showed that the employee in question had not actually stolen anything, the institution only increased the frequency and invasiveness of the searches. Such treatment would rightly be condemned as racist. Yet that is exactly what Smith College has done to its service workers.”

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The letter asks Smith college to publicly apologize to its falsely accused service workers, cease the forced anti-bias training, and compensate workers for the harm caused by the incident. 

Smith College did not respond with a comment before publication.

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