Johnny Eric Williams is a professor of sociology at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Williams has been making headlines after tweeting that “whiteness is terrorism” on Easter Sunday. Williams, who is black, also tweeted, “All self-identified white people (no exceptions) are invested in and collude with systemic white racism/white supremacy.”
Here’s what you need to know about Johnny Eric Williams:
1. He Wrote that Barack & Michelle Obama Are ‘White Kneegrows’ Who Are ‘Enemies of Humanity’
Johnny Eric Williams is no stranger to controversy. Earlier this month, Williams took to Facebook to post that “‘White’ kneegrows really need a lot of therapy and a good ‘ol ass kicking.” In a separate post, Williams clarified that he was referring to Barack and Michelle Obama, whom, he said, pose a “danger” to society. “I’m referring to her other and less brazen but more insidious dangerous ‘white’ kneegrows like Barry and Michelle Obama and many other white kneegrows you encounter daily,” Williams posted.
Reporters at the Hartford Courant asked Williams to clarify his Facebook post, and he replied, “there are many socially defined black folks who have internalized whiteness — as a way and knowing and being in the world. They like others who believe themselves to be ‘white,’ act on these ideas in ways that create and sustain systemic white racism. Such whiteness internalization lead folks like Candace Owens, Barry and Michelle Obama to engage in actions and policy creations that are existential threats to humanity, particularly the racial oppressed. Thus my post denotes the urgency of exposing these individual as enemies of humanity’s well-being.”
2. Williams Received Death Threats & Was Suspended from Work Over Controversial Social Media Posts in 2017
Williams is no stranger to controversy. Back in 2017, the professor faced death threats over a post on social media using the hashtag, “let them f*cking die.” Williams was sharing an article from the website “Medium” which argued that minorities should let bigots “die.” The piece — titled “Let Them F*cking Die” — also linked to an article about Representative Steve Scalise, who was shot earlier in that year. The piece said that Scalise had once allegedly spoken in front of a group of white supremacists and that he had opposed protections for LGBTQ people.
Williams shared a link to the Medium post, using “let them f*cking die” as a hashtag. He also wrote, it is “past time for the racially oppressed to do what people who believe themselves to be ‘white’ will not do, put end to the vectors of their destructive mythology of whiteness and their white supremacy system.”
Williams said that he had received death threats after putting up the post. Trinity College put Williams on leave, arguing that it was in the best interests of both Williams and the college. Williams was an associate professor at the time.
3. Williams Was Given Tenure in July 2017, Shortly After Being Suspended for Controversial Posts About Race
Williams was given tenure in July 2017, shortly after his suspension. In June 2017, he said that he had received death threats and that he had to flee the area after a post on social media in which he used the hashtag “let them f*cking die.” Shortly after that incident, according to Williams’ LinkedIn page, he was given tenure at Trinity College. Academic tenure gives a college professor permanent status and makes it very difficult to fire them. (Assistant professors can be let go much more easily.) Tenure is often seen as a way to protect free speech, since tenured professors have job security that isn’t dependent on what they say or publish.
4. Williams Has Mixed Reviews on ‘Rate My Professor,’ with Students Either Loving Him or Hating Him
Williams has very mixed reviews on the site RateMyProfessor.com, which asks students to grade their professors. Some of Williams’ students have written him glowing reviews, writing that his class is mind-opening and that he provides students with a fresh look at American society. One wrote,
“Professor Williams is an amazing person and for that he is an absolutely outstanding professor. He will shame you for not putting in effort. He is tough because he wants to see the world change, he believes in the power of young minds. Take advantage of his classes and open your mind to new things, it’s completely worth more than getting an A.”
Other reviews complain that Williams lets his personal views of Trinity College and the student body influence his teaching too much. One review says, “Dislikes most of the student body, and that shows through his grading. Goes on rants then complains he’s behind on schedule.”
5. Williams Earned a PhD from Brandeis University & Has Taught at Trinity College Since 1996
Williams earned his BA from Oachita Baptist University. He went on to earn his MA at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He got a PhD in sociology from Brandeis University in 1994. Williams then spent two years as a visiting professor at Colorado College. In 1996, he went to work as a n assistant professor at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He was made a tenured professor in 2017.