This year’s Reith Lecturer was Patricia J. Williams, a lawyer and Professor
of Law at Columbia and author of the award-winning The
Alchemy of Race and Rights (1993) and The Rooster’s Egg: The Persistence
of Prejudice (1995) as well as numerous essays and articles
in law journals and in The Village Voice, The Nation and Ms. Magazine. Professor Williams was invited to speak in this the European
Year Against Racism but she found herself and the topic of her lectures
the subject of heated media debate in Britain. Tabloids and
broadsheets alike reviled her as ‘a militant black feminist who thinks
all whites are racist and the family is wrong’ (Daily Mail) and her lectures
were even described as ‘mumbo-jumbo’ in the Daily Telegraph.
Britain’s newspapers and Melvyn Bragg on Radio 4’s ‘Start the
Week’ combined to demonise the first black woman speaker in the
49-year history of the Reith Lectures.