Trinity College Professor Tweets ‘Whiteness Is Terrorism,’ Refers to Barack and Michelle Obama as ‘White Kneegrows’
Neil Vigdor, Hartford Courant, April 24, 2019
A Trinity College professor whose racially charged social media posts created an uproar in 2017 is once again facing a firestorm from alumni of the Hartford liberal arts school for tweeting “Whiteness is terrorism” on Easter and referring to Barack and Michelle Obama as “white kneegrows.”
In a second tweet Sunday, Johnny Eric Williams, who is black, wrote: “All self-identified white people (no exceptions) are invested in and collude with systemic white racism/white supremacy.”
Earlier this month, the tenured sociology professor wrote “‘White’ kneegrows really need a lot of therapy and a good ‘ol ass kicking,” in a Facebook post. When asked whether he was referring to Candace Owens, the black conservative commentator and political activist, who is from Connecticut, Williams said it wasn’t just her.
“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.
In an emailed response, Williams said “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,” Williams said.
Williams’ latest posts recall a two-year-old controversy, during which he took a mutually agreed upon leave of absence from Trinity because of the national attention his social media comments about race generated. An investigation by Trinity cleared Williams of any wrongdoing and determined the tweets were protected by academic freedom.
A Trinity spokeswoman said in an email Tuesday: “Yes, we know about the tweets by Professor Williams, which were made in the context of his academic scholarship on issues of race. A discussion of the tweets followed on a closed Facebook group of some Trinity alumni. In that thread, an alumnus reports having reached out to ask Professor Williams about the tweets. Professor Williams then shared a broader scholarly context for the statements, as well as some relevant publications on the concept of whiteness. The context provided by Professor Williams speaks for itself.”
Williams said he is not anti-white and that he is trying to get people to think about the oppression of African-Americans, which can be a provocative topic. He said his tweets were not in response to Sunday’s deadly Easter terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka or any other specific incident.
“Whiteness breeds terrorism, the exploitation of other people’s bodies and minds for profit,” Williams said. “It’s academic freedom. That’s the role of a professor to try to help students see their complicity and collusion with white racism.”
Williams said his comments are being taken out of context by those “just looking to get rid of black intellectuals” at Trinity College.
“First of all, they don’t understand what I’m talking about, which reveals their shortcoming of knowledge about white supremacy,” Williams said. “Trinity is a very hostile place. I know that many of them think a black person’s humanity is negotiable. As of now, the environment here is hostility to anyone who isn’t white and from the upper crust. All of them are not bad, but there’s a preponderance of them who try to get their way.”
Williams said he wasn’t referring to the school’s administration.