Women’s History Month kicks off with EIUnity keynote

Luke Taylor, Associate News Editor

The annual EIUnity Diversity Conference began on March 5 with a keynote address from Dr. Lori Patton Davis. 

Davis has an extensive resume in academia including her current position as professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs at Ohio State University and her numerous published works on a wide range of topics. 

She is best known for her work surrounding race and racism in higher education and Black women in social and educational contexts. 

Davis titled her keynote address “Race Matters for Inclusive Excellence,” and she said these topics are important to her because she wants to change conversations about race and racism from being taboo to being recognized academic topics. 

She said that conversations about race and racism are filtered into different “strands” and she chose some of those strands to speak about in her address. 

One strand she spoke about was “Let’s talk about race explicitly,” which Davis said is usually an attempt to educate the individuals participating. 

“In the end, participants leave thinking to themselves that they somehow, miraculously, with this one- to two-hour conversation, understand what racism is about,” Davis said. “This strand of conversations is better than nothing at all, but it is problematic because while the goal is explicit to discuss race and racism, not much is ultimately accomplished with the exception of allowing participants to pat themselves on the back.”

Davis explained that this type of discussion is an issue because it often refocuses the center of the conversation to white people’s perspective on race which can often mean that the issue gets ignored.

Another of those conversation strands focuses on race and racism’s relation to whiteness and white supremacy.

“This more recent strand is about increasing and in some instances developing the critical consciousness of white people,” Davis said. “There is now a larger discourse suggesting that the struggle to dismantle racism and racial struggles can’t progress without the involvement of all people, the involvement of white people at all.”

Davis said that this form of conversation meets the most resistance because it threatens the comfort of white people. 

“These conversations often begin with good intentions that lead to few accomplishments and at times the biggest accomplishment can be that someone who wasn’t aware can have some modicum of awareness,” Davis said. 

Other events include:

•Women in Leadership: How Representation Doesn’t Always Translate to Inclusion & Power on March 8

•“Listening to the Ancestors: Ella Baker’s Lessons for 21st Centure Freedom Fighters” on March 8

•Camille Campo Memorial Lecture on March 25


Luke Taylor can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]