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Retired USC professor under fire for reportedly saying she would have had a better career if she had been black: 'S*** went absolutely off the rails'

  A retired historian and women's studies professor at the University of Southern California has endured heavy criticism after she alleg...

 A retired historian and women's studies professor at the University of Southern California has endured heavy criticism after she allegedly stated at a recent conference that she would have had a better career if she had been born with black skin.

According to reports, Lois Banner, who has been described as "a pioneer in women's studies," allegedly made the comments last Friday at the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians — a biennial conference Banner co-founded in 1972. The remarks were first reported by Stephanie Narrow, a Ph.D. candidate who attended this year's conference. 

"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," Narrow tweeted on Friday. Reports from Narrow and others later indicated that Banner was the scholar in question.

"[Banner] was immediately called out for her blatantly racist remarks, and refused to apologize, let alone listen, to the reason why her remarks were horrifying [sic] wrong," Narrow also posted on Twitter. 

Though the audience was reportedly aghast at Banner's remarks, the professor emeritus remained defiant. "You won't change my mind, I'm 84 years old," Banner allegedly said in response to the negative feedback. During her speech, Banner also reportedly complimented lesbians for building strong communities. 

Banner addressed the conference after Deborah Gray White, a black professor of women's studies at Rutgers University, who spoke about the Berkshire Conference's history of racism and exclusion of black women. Then, after Banner's controversial presentation, another black scholar, Deirdre Cooper Owens of the University of Nebraska, spoke, discussing "love" in the face of "self-hate," likely referencing Banner.

"The Berks Conference was a beautiful one until it was soiled by Lois Banner’s hatefully racist comments," Cooper Owens later wrote on Twitter. "Yes, I did speak out forcefully against her vitriol because she needed to keep Black women’s name out of her mouth."

Another conference attendee, Paul Renfro of Florida State University, claimed that "s*** went absolutely off the rails" after Banner's comments. "A lot of folks (myself included) walked out due to a dreadfully racist comment made by one of the presenters," Renfro tweeted. "She was reprimanded by several audience members, and quite a few attendees walked out."

Conference officials issued an immediate statement as well, claiming they "do not condone or support the inappropriate remarks made by one of the speakers." They also held a meeting on Saturday, a meeting that also included other concerned individuals. "The board and trustees listened, took careful notes, and are planning action," the group said in a follow-up tweet on Saturday. "The conversation is not over and the board will have a statement and a concrete action plan soon."

Banner, well known for her book on the life and legacy of Marilyn Monroe, retired from USC in 2014. In responding to a request for comment from TheBlaze, Banner denied making the comments. "That's not what I said," she wrote in an email. "I said that senior male scholars had called me a dumb blonde, which was a term of derision in the 1960s and 1970s. I also said that I had admired lesbians for their active role in the women's movement."

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