While a white historian was speaking at a conference on Friday (June 30), she made extremely offensive and racist remarks in front of attendees. Even as many audience members stormed out and others tried to reason with her, the woman refused to issue an apology or hear anyone out.

Today (July 4), The New York Post published an article about the incident. The outlet named Lois Banner, a USC professor emerita of history, as the white woman who made derogatory statements at the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, which she co-founded in the 1970s. Stephanie Narrow, a Ph.D. candidate who was present, brought the situation to light via Twitter. “Well, the Berks plenary just took a turn. A white senior scholar at the 50th-anniversary plenary VERY publicly, and unapologetically, said that she wished she was Black so her professional life would be easier,” she shared in a lengthy social media thread.

Narrow added, “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: ‘You won’t change my mind. I’m 84 years old.’” Deirdre Cooper Owens, another historian present for the event, backed Narrow’s accusations and posted about her experience on Sunday (July 2). “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 [names] out of her mouth.”

The historian continued, noting it was important for her to step up for a colleague. “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,” she tweeted. The Berkshire Conference of Women Historians committee was alerted of Banner’s comments and issued the following statement via Twitter: “The Berks officers do not condone or support the inappropriate remarks made by one of the speakers tonight. A formal statement from the presidents will be made after the break.”

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