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Trinity College professor tweets 'Whiteness is terrorism,' criticizes Obamas

Neil Vigdor, The Hartford Courant on

Published in News & Features

HARTFORD, Conn. -- 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 said " '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.

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Williams' latest posts recall a 2-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.

The controversial pair of Facebook posts by Williams in 2017 included an inflammatory and profane hashtag -- "Let Them (expletive) Die" -- that was widely shared on social and conservative media, leading to the threats against Williams and calls for him to be fired.

Trinity President Joanne Berger-Sweeney reported that the college lost $200,000 in donations due to the controversy. Sixteen incoming students also withdrew their enrollment.

At the time, Berger-Sweeney said she supported Williams' right to express his views, but found his words personally offensive.

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