BY Francis Akhalbey, 12:00pm July 04, 2023,

White professor criticized after saying her life would have been easier if she were Black

Lois Banner, a renowned professor, said her life would have been easier if she were Black -- Image Credit: BloomsburyUSA

Lois Banner, a renowned USC professor emerita of history, was rebuked by her colleagues as well as others on social media after she claimed her life would have been easier if she were Black. She, however, reportedly refused to apologize after making those comments.

According to The Daily Beast, Banner, a White woman, made the controversial comments while speaking at the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians over the weekend. The event, which has been held biennially since its inception in the 1970s, was co-founded by Banner.

The academic is also known for authoring a Marilyn Monroe biography in 2012. Besides making the aforementioned comments, Banner also said she wished she was a lesbian, as they excel at community building and organizing, per reports.

“She was immediately called out for her blatantly racist remarks, and refused to apologize, let alone listen, to the reason why her remarks were horrifyingly wrong [sic]. ‘You won’t change my mind, I’m 84 years old,’” a doctoral student by the name Stephanie Narrow tweeted. “The room is shaken, it’s palpable.”

Prior to speaking at the conference, Rutgers University historian, Deborah Gray White, had delivered a speech about Black women in their field of work. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Paul Renfro of Florida State University labeled Banner’s comments as “very, very, very problematic.”  Renfro also said some people in the crowd “gasped audibly” while others “began to walk out” after Banner made those comments.

Deidre Cooper Owens, a historian at the University of Nebraska, also condemned Banner when it was her turn to speak at the conference. “The Berks Conference was a beautiful one until it was soiled by Lois Banner’s hatefully racist comments. Yes, I did speak out forcefully against her vitriol because she needed to keep Black women’s name out of her mouth,” Cooper Owens, who is Black, later shared on Twitter.

“More urgently, I needed that room to acknowledge the strength, brilliance, and bravery of Deborah Gray White, period. I refused to let a bigoted racist take away from Deborah’s powerfully truthful speech.”

Responding to the incident in a tweet, the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians said its officers “do not condone or support the inappropriate remarks made by one of the speakers tonight”, adding that its presidents will make a formal statement later.

However, some people called out the organization for not mentioning Banner or expressing sharp disapproval. In the wake of the incident, the group also organized a “talking session” on Banner’s comments the following day.

They also took to Twitter to share that “the board and trustees listened, took careful notes, and are planning action. The conversation is not over and the board will have a statement and a concrete action plan soon.”

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: July 4, 2023

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