By Jillian Bandes
Patricia J. Williams, renowned author and law professor at Columbia University, spoke at the Storer Auditorium last Thursday as part of UM’s Presidents’ Lecture Series.
The self-proclaimed “politically correct black feminazi” spoke about “Race and Democracy” by giving a passionate but down-to-earth account of her experiences in the U.S. and in Europe. She described her personal encounters with racism, and how it impacts both law and society as a whole.
Williams said that being stereotyped is like “living in a perpetual state of victimization by identity thieves,” and that a blind eye towards such stereotypes is “a very ingrained phenomenon in American culture.” According to Williams, such lack of sensitivity detracts from our intelligence.
Integrity and race was another focal point of Williams’ address. Lack of roots, or ignorance of them, causes Americans to be “unique in suppression of oneself.” She went on to emphasize the role of the media in contributing this “increasingly image-driven society.”
The lecture also imparted Williams’ liberal, left-wing principals. She voiced her anti-Bush agenda at least once during the lecture.
Williams is friend of UM President Donna Shalala; the two worked together at the University of Wisconsin. Williams stayed at Shalala’s home during her visit, and it was clear during the lecture and following reception that the two had a strong rapport. Williams began her speech humorously by saying how she admired Shalala’s ability to deal with the pressures that come with being in the limelight.
“I’m very interested in identity politics. This is what makes a college a college and not party central.” -KIRAN SONI, Law student
“I’ve always thought that the President is an exception,” she said. “I’m someone with the thinnest of skins and no sense of humor.”
Shalala had equally flattering words for Williams after the lecture.
“There’s no one quite like her in American law,” Shalala said. “She is a real contribution.”
Indeed, Williams has been a huge contributor to the legal profession in her 28- year career. After receiving her J.D. from Harvard in 1976 she worked as deputy city attorney for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, and has been affiliated with several universities.
In 2000, Williams received the MacArthur Fellowship, a “genius” award that grants Williams $500,000 of no-strings-attached money in recognition of her exceptional creativity. The prestigious fellowship is awarded over a five-year period and can be used for whatever purpose the recipient sees fit.
UM students said that they benefited from Williams’ expertise.
“I was very pleased,” Villamore Asuncion, senior, said. “I wish we could get more scholars like her.”
Kiran Soni, a second year law student at UM, said that she was able to identify very closely with the subject matter in Williams’ lecture.
“As a woman of color, I’m very interested in identity politics,” she said. “This is what makes a college a college and not party central.”
The next speaker in the Presidents’ Lecture Series is Maya Angelou.
Jillian Bandes can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.