UPDATE: As it turns out, a white neighbor who called the cops on Yale University teaching fellow Lolade Siyonbola has previously notified the authorities about another black student whom she accused of being an intruder.
After the incident last week went viral and became national news, Yale Police released a statement maintaining that Sarah Braasch’s phone call was “not a police matter.” Additionally, the university claims to have “admonished” her for making the call, but this is only one of several racially-charged encounters she has had with black schoolmates.
When Siyonbola posted the video clips of her interaction with Braasch and the university police, she mentioned briefly in her caption that the same woman had called the cops on her friend, who is also black, for being in their building. However, she didn’t elaborate much further on the past incident. Now, more details about that situation have come to light.
Back in February, Siyonbola invited Jean-Louis Reneson and some other classmates to the Hall of Graduate Studies common room for a meeting. On his way there, Reneson had gotten lost inside the building and was standing in the stairwell when Braasch physically blocked him from getting into the common room after he asked her for directions.
“Feeling ignored, I went down to base of the 12th floor and 11th floor and turned my back, but she continued to verbally assault me from the 12th floor, claiming that I ‘didn't belong here’ and I was making her ‘uncomfortable,’” Reneson told Yale Daily News.
Eventually, Reneson was able to join Siyonbola and the others in the common room, but not without four police officers arriving in search of a “suspicious character” spotted on the 12th floor.
Reneson and Siyonbola filed a complaint in March after that incident, but no official action was taken. Presumably, Braasch getting away with this behavior once made her feel emboldened enough to do it again when she reported Siyonbola last week.
Going back even further, before Braasch attended Yale, she wrote some very racially-insensitive blog posts, including one for Humanist — that has now been removed — in which she reflected upon a middle school assignment in which she was purportedly instructed to debate slavery from the perspective of a slave owner.
“I was placed on the pro-slavery side of the argument. I remember spending many an hour in the local public library poring over Time Life books… And then I had a eureka moment. Some — not many, but some — of the slaves didn’t want to stop being slaves. A small number wanted to remain with their owners or return even after being freed. I knew I had just won the debate. And indeed, I did. I led our team to victory. The pro-slavery contingent defeated the abolitionists because, in a democracy, in the land of the free, who are we to tell people that they can’t be slaves if they want to be? Who are we to tell someone that she has to be free? Who are we to tell someone that she has to be regarded as fully human?” she wrote.
In addition to her ignorant point of view regarding slavery, it seems Braasch also doesn’t mind hate crimes or hate speech as she wrote in a 2011 Patheos blog that hate crime legislation is “stupid.”
“Hate crimes legislation is stupid. Seriously stupid. Abominably stupid. I hate hate crimes legislation. But, I love hate speech. Hate crimes legislation has a chilling effect on free speech and freedom of association,” she wrote.
Clearly, this woman’s track record indicates that her motives for calling the police stem from deeply-rooted racism that dates back to her adolescence. Therefore, it’s likely that she is set in her beliefs. However, she needs to face consequences for filing false reports to the officers and wasting their time along with putting the safety of her black classmates in jeopardy by criminalizing them for no reason.
The act of white people arbitrarily calling the cops on black folks seems to be becoming a trend throughout the United States.
Last month, two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks for sitting in the establishment to wait for someone without ordering anything. Just this week, three black women filmmakers found themselves swarmed by cops while they were leaving their AirBnb residence because a neighbor assumed they were burglarizing the home.
Lolade Siyonbola posted two videos of the ordeal on Facebook. One clip showed the neighbor filming her and chastising her for sleeping in the lobby. The other showed what occurred when the police arrived on the scene.
Sadly, Siyonbola’s caption accompanying the videos suggested that this wasn’t the first issue she’s had with the same neighbor.
She wrote, “This ‘person’ called the cops on my friend a few months ago for getting lost in my building. Today she messed — again — with the wrong one.”
During her exchange with the three officers who responded to the call, Siyonbola showed them that she had a working key to her apartment and provided her identification to verify her identity and enrollment. However, when they ran her ID, they were able to determine she had an active Yale email address but she was not located in the security system.
As it turned out, her name was simply misspelled in the system, but before they got down to the bottom of things, Siyonbola engaged in an intense exchange with one of the cops who was black and male.
“I’m a free citizen, and I do what the hell I want in this building,” Siyonbola said, visibly exasperated.
“This is private property, and we are police officers here, so we are allowed to do our job,” the officer responded. “We determine who is allowed to be here and who is not allowed to be here regardless of whether you feel you are allowed to be here or not. That’s just the bottom line.”
“Continue. I hope that makes you feel powerful,” Siyonbola retorted.
“It’s not about feeling powerful,” the officer said. “It’s about getting down to the bottom of this. We don’t know why you’re not in the system, and you’re not being very helpful right now,” to which Siyonbola replied, “You wouldn’t be very helpful either if you were woken up and harassed.”
The officer went on to try explaining to Siyonbola that the neighbor’s decision to call the cops was not equivalent to harassment. She eventually had her ID returned and carried on with her night, but before ending her recording, she vowed to come back with a follow-up on the issue.
It isn’t likely that Siyonbola will allow this issue to be swept under the rug as she is the co-founder of the Yale African Graduate & Professional Students organization. She is also on the advisory board of Black Women’s Blueprint, which is described on her LinkedIn profile as “Meaningful work around demanding accountability for the injustices served to Black Women.”
It's fair to say by Siyonbola's footage that the officers were just doing their jobs, and luckily, the ordeal didn't become heated or escalate to a more serious confrontation. However, the bigger issue is that they should never have been called in the first place. The overzealous neighbor had no real cause for concern about Siyonbola's napping.
The woman was minding her own business and causing no harm or threat to anyone. She would have eventually woken up and gone to her apartment, but it wasn't the neighbor's place to take matters into her own hands, especially considering the common area is not her property to regulate or manage.
Furthermore, the neighbor should be consciously aware enough to understand that to call the police on black people is to, essentially, endanger them as interactions with law enforcement often quickly turn violent or deadly for people of color.
As this, among other racist behaviors, becomes an ongoing issue with seemingly no end in sight, we can't help but wonder if black people will ever experience true freedom in this country.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton