*We can now add “napping while black” to the list.
A black Yale graduate had to spend nearly half an hour proving to police that she attends the Ivy League school after a white student called authorities because she was napping in the common room of their dorm.
The black student, Lolade Siyonbola, recorded her police encounter on Facebook Live early Tuesday in two videos – one showing the white student calling the police, and the other of her being interrogated after cops show up.
“I deserve to be here. I pay tuition like everybody else,” an annoyed Siyonbola told responding officers in the second video after they asked for her ID. “I’m not going to justify my existence here.”
The incident is one of several in recent weeks in which police have been called on black people for seemingly harmless acts. Most recently, three black women were detained while leaving their California Airbnb after a neighbor called police, thinking they were burglars. Last month two black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia after a manager called 911 on them because they didn’t order anything.
According to Siyonbola, she was working on a paper in the Hall of Graduate Studies when she fell asleep in a common room. The white female student came in, turned on the lights and told her, “You’re not supposed to be sleeping here. I’m going to call the police.”
Siyonbola pulled out her phone and recorded 54 seconds of a hallway encounter with the unidentified 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 began questioning her in a stairwell, Siyonbola posted 17 minutes of their encounter to Facebook Live. When Siyonbola asked them about the complaint, one officer said, “She called us (and) said there’s somebody who appeared they weren’t … where they were supposed to be.”
The 34-year-old grad student in African Studies unlocked her dorm-room door in front of police to show that she lived there, but they still asked for her ID. “We’re in a Yale building and we need to make sure that you belong here,” the other officer told her.
After some hesitation, Siyonbola handed her ID over. “I really don’t know if there’s a justification for you actually being in the building,” she told the officers, saying she needed to get back to working on her paper.
Eventually two more officers arrived. After some confusion about Siyonbola’s ID — her name was apparently misspelled in a student database — the police told her she was free to go.
Watch both videos below:
Siyonbola’s video of the episode prompted thousands of comments, many of them protesting what people feel was a racist assumption by the white student and harassment of Siyonbola by the campus police. “This sorta incident breaks my heart everytime…” wrote one man. “Why do white folks always call police on black folks all the time why?!!!”
Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart told CNN that university officials will review the officers’ response as they do with every incident.
“We believe the Yale police who responded followed procedures,” she said.
“Our officers are professionals who take great pride in working for Yale,” she added. “They are trained on unconscious bias, de-escalation techniques, and problem solving, and seek to treat each individual with respect.”
In a follow-up Facebook post Tuesday afternoon, Siyonbola said, “Grateful for all the love, kind words and prayers, your support has been overwhelming. Black Yale community is beyond incredible and is taking good care of me. I know this incident is a drop in the bucket of trauma Black folk have endured since Day 1 America, and you all have stories. Share below if you feel led.”