Who Is Johnny Eric Williams? New Details On The Professor Who Thinks 'Whiteness Is Terrorism'

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Who Is Johnny Eric Williams? New Details On The Professor Who Thinks "Whiteness Is Terrorism"
Johnny Eric Williams was just living his life as a professor at Trinity College in Hartford, CT, when he sent out a tweet on Easter Sunday that earned him both backlash and headlines.

So, who is Johnny Eric Williams?

1. He doesn’t like Barack and Michelle Obama.

Prior to creating a firestorm of controversy with his “whiteness is terrorism” tweet — on Easter Sunday, no less — Johnny Eric Williams came under fire for his rather offensive criticism of President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama. According to the Hartford Courant, Williams called the pair “white kneegrows” who “needed a lot of therapy and a good old-fashioned ass-kicking.” He also said that the duo “posed a danger to society.” Naturally, his comments caused an outcry amongst the community, who called for Trinity College to terminate their relationship with him. Sixteen students withdrew their enrollment, and the college lost more than $200,000 in donations.

Despite the growing backlash, however, Trinity College stood behind the controversial professor. “They also contradict our fundamental institutional values and run counter to our efforts to bridge divides and to promote understanding, both among members of our college community and between us and members of communities beyond our own,” said Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney.

Johnny Eric Williams is no stranger to controversy. 

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2. He got in serious trouble for his comments back in 2017.

While Trinity College may be backing Johnny Eric Williams for these latest comments, they didn’t always do so. In fact, according to Inside Higher Ed, he made comments back in 2017 that were so controversial and offensive, he was suspended with pay pending a thorough review. While some in the academic community claimed that Williams was being “targeted” and was, in fact, the victim in this case — and that his suspension was a threat to academic freedom — the university stood by its decision, especially since he made a public proclamation about “letting them [expletive] die.”

“The principles that underlie this particular set of events go far beyond the actions of any one person. These involve principles that concern how we think about academic freedom and freedom of speech, as well as the responsibilities that come with those fundamental values,” said Berger-Sweeney at the time of his suspension, clearly singing a different tune than the one she would sing two years later. “Our roles in and relationship to social media and the public sphere are complicated. We must be able to engage in conversations about these difficult and complex issues, and Trinity College and other places like it are precisely where such conversations should occur.”

Johnny Eric Williams is a tenured professor at Trinity College, making his "firing" nearly impossible.

3. When he came back from suspension in 2017, he was tenured as a professor.

Despite the fact that his controversial comments earned him death threats and suspensions from his employer, Johnny Eric Williams received tenure from Trinity College, according to his LinkedIn page. This move drew a lot of controversies, too, because a professor who is tenured can almost never get fired, barring a rather egregious breach of protocol that actually falls along the lines of a crime.

Additionally, tenure is often seen by professors as “job security,” since a position with tenure isn’t dependent on what they say or what they publish.

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4. You either love him or you hate him.

The website RankMyProfessor.com has long been a repository for students to gather their thoughts on particular professors at different colleges. This will give potential and current students first-hand insight as to what they can expect from a class and its professor.

While most professors fall in the middle range — with students having “average” positions on their teachers — Johnny Eric Williams is not “most professors.” His students either love him for being “refreshing” or hate him for “going on rants.”

We’re quite confident this isn’t the last we’ve heard of Johnny Eric Williams.

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Bernadette Giacomazzo is an editor, writer, and photographer whose work has appeared in People, Teen Vogue, Us Weekly, The Source, XXL, HipHopDX, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, and more. She is also the author of The Uprising series. Find her online at www.bernadettegiacomazzo.com and www.longlivetheuprising.com.