What do you call an octogenarian white woman and professor of history who believes her decades-long career would have been easier if she were born a Black woman? Do you call her delusional? Racist? A delusional racist? Is she a Bizarro World critical race theorist? Is that why she’s an apparent historian of the imaginary Reverse Jim Crow era?
Anyway, meet Lois Banner.
Banner is an author and retired professor at the University of Southern California. According to her profile, her areas of research and practice include “women, gender, cultural history, nineteenth and twentieth century United States; masculinity studies, feminist studies, sexuality and queer studies,” which means this 83-year-old historian—who lived through and studied America’s segregation era and received her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1970, less than a full decade after the 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed—has spent literal decades studying marginalized communities, and yet she still believes she has suffered professionally from a lack of Black privilege.
From the Daily Beast:
A conference for female historians this weekend was plunged into turmoil when a prominent white academic speaking at the main event said her professional life would have been easier if she were Black.
She was identified by attendees of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, on social media and in an interview, as USC professor emerita of history Lois Banner, who co-founded the biennial event in the 1970s.
Banner—author of a 2012 biography of Marilyn Monroe—reportedly also said she wished she was a lesbian because they were good at building community and organizing. She did not respond to a request for comment.
“She was immediately called out for her blatantly racist remarks, and refused to apologize, let alone listen, to the reason why her remarks were horrifying wrong [sic]. ‘You won’t change my mind, I’m 84 years old,’” Stephanie Narrow, a doctoral student who attended the Friday night plenary session, tweeted.
“The room is shaken, it’s palpable,” Narrow added.
So, not only did the poster child for everything wrong with white feminism use the Berkshire Conference stage as her own personal white grievance anonymous group session, but she reportedly did so right after Deborah Gray White, a Black woman who happens to be the Board of Governors Professor of History and Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, took the stage to speak on Black women in the history field.
Imagine the sheer degree of white fragility it takes for a white person to respond to a Black woman’s speech about the Black woman’s experience in the profession by getting on stage to bloviate about how being born heterosexual and Caucasian held them back. It almost sounds like Banner listened to a Black woman talk about professional hurdles Banner never faced and responded by implying that not facing those hurdles was the real hurdle.
Other attendees said she basically acted as a POC repellent and nearly cleared the room of non-white people during her miseducated Karen rant, which included the blatant fetishization of Black skin. (Apparently, the Black don’t crack-envy was strong in this one.)
More from the Daily Beast:
Paul Renfro of Florida State University said Banner’s comments were tonally off and rambling even before she “made this allusion to this desire that she’s always had, to have dark skin, which is very, very, very problematic. ”
“And so when that happened, the awkward, sort of strange response that many in the audience had to the remarks that came before kind of mutated into almost sort of just complete discomfort and revulsion,” Renfro told The Daily Beast. “Some people gasped audibly, and some people began to walk out.”
He said a white woman in the audience shouted at Banner that she had said something racist and Banner denied it. People of color began to walk out and when organizers didn’t step in, Renfro said, he left, too.
In response to the backlash, the BCWH tweeted a statement saying it does “not condone or support the inappropriate remarks made by one of the speakers tonight,” but it turned out people weren’t satisfied with a non-statement that substituted “racist AF” for “inappropriate” and didn’t bother mentioning the “speaker” by name at all.
People on Twitter also pointed out that Banner’s caucacity-clad remarks were made around the same time the U.S. Supreme Court gutted affirmative action in college admissions. (To be fair, she might have been confused about the impact of the decision since white women have benefited most from AA. She needn’t worry, though, because they only deemed the part that helps Black and brown people unconstitutional. But no—I’m sure she honestly wishes she had to navigate the world of academia as a Black woman.)
So, yes, “delusional racist” seems appropriate here. And white fragility continues to be one hell of a drug.
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