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Yale police called over napping black student

A Yale graduate student named Lolade Siyonbola was questioned by police after a white student, Sarah Braasch, encountered her napping in a dormitory common room.

Posted: May 14, 2018 10:38 PM
Updated: May 14, 2018 10:38 PM

At first, Lolade Siyonbola thought this must be a joke. Did another Yale student really call the police because she fell asleep in a common room?

"I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me,'" Siyonbola told ABC's "Good Morning America."

Then reality sunk in.

"None of this is really new. None of it is shocking," the grad student said in an interview that aired Monday. "Every day, someone is treated with racial bias -- and every day, people are being approached by the police."

Siyonbola identified the student who complained about her as Sarah Braasch, a Ph.D candidate in philosophy.

This isn't the first time Braasch allegedly called police on a black student. In February, another Yale student said Braasch called police on him after he had asked her for directions.

Braasch has not responded to CNN's repeated requests for comment. But Siyonbola said Braasch wasted police resources and should be disciplined or expelled.

"Someone who uses the police in the way that Sarah used the police should be held accountable," Siyonbola told "Good Morning America." "There needs to be punitive measures for people who act out of racially-motivated bias."

When 'napping while black' leads to calling police

The dangers of everyday profiling

In just the past few weeks, a black man in New York was accused of burglarizing his own apartment. Three black teens were wrongfully accused of shoplifting at a Nordstrom Rack. And a mom called police because two Native American students made her "nervous" while on a college campus tour.

But for every case that makes the news, there are countless others that don't involve police. And these cases of "everyday racial profiling" don't just hurt the victims -- they also hurt those holding the biases, experts say.

For example, racial bias impacts everyone in terms of public safety. Many calls to police about a "suspicious person" don't really involve suspicious activity -- just the sight of a person of color, said Rachel Godsil of the Perception Institute research group.

These kinds of racial bias calls waste officers' time and resources, which could be spent actually protecting communities, Godsil said.

'We need to make sure you belong here'

In Siyonbola's case, the 34-year-old recorded 54 seconds of a hallway encounter with the white student, who told her, "I have every right to call the police. You cannot sleep in that room."

After two white police officers arrived and started questioning, Siyonbola posted 17 minutes of their encounter to Facebook Live.

She told "Good Morning America" that she started filming "just for my safety."

When Siyonbola asked police what the problem was, one officer said the white student "called us (and) said there's somebody who appeared they weren't ... where they were supposed to be."

So Siyonbola unlocked her dorm-room door in front of police to show that she actually lived there, but they still asked for her ID. "You're in a Yale building, and we need to make sure that you belong here," the other officer told her.

Siyonbola said she doesn't think officers would have interrogated her for so long if she were white.

"I used the key to show that that was my apartment. I felt like that should have been enough for them," she said. "I don't think that, if I looked differently, that it would have gone any further than that."

After verifying Siyonbola's identity, officers scolded the white student who called police, saying Siyonbola had every right to be there, Yale's Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews said.

But the university has not said whether the white student involved will face any disciplinary action.

Reneson Jean-Louis, another black Yale student who said Braasch called the police on him, told CNN the officers he encountered said callers racially profile "all the time."

He said the officers' tone made it sound like racial profiling is normal.

"Wait, I'm supposed to be used to getting racially profiled?" he remembered thinking. "'You want me to make this normal because you've normalized it?'"

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