Professor Johnny Eric Williams of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, allegedly forwarded reports on his social media feed that alarmed the institution. The article at Medium said: “If you see white people drowning or burning or bleeding to death, let them effing die and smile a bit when you do.”
At the conclusion of more than a dozen posts, Williams added the hashtag, #LetThemEffingDie!” The comments came in response to the attempted assassination of House Republican Whip Steve Scalise and four others by a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent of socialist leanings who caucuses with the Democrats in the US Senate. Scalise remains hospitalized after receiving a near-fatal bullet wound. Four others were wounded, including two black police officers. Williams is also black.
The author of the essay, who goes by the pen name 'Son of Baldwin' at Medium wrote that the Capitol police guarding Scalise and other Republican lawmakers should have let them die. “Saving the life of those that would kill you is the opposite of virtuous,” the author wrote. “Let. Them. F***ing. Die. And smile a bit when you do. For you have done the universe a great service.”
“I’m fed the f**k up with self identified ‘white’s’ daily violence directed at immigrants, Muslim, and sexually and racially oppressed people,” wrote Williams. “The time is now to confront these inhuman a–holes and end this now.”
The Republican leader of Connecticut’s state House, Themis Klaridis, and state Republican senator George Logan, both of whom are Trinity alumni, released a statement saying, “We are calling upon the school to immediately and permanently remove Mr. Williams from the ranks of the school’s faculty. His reprehensible suggestions that white people in general need to ‘die’ and that they be confronted for their white supremacist attitudes and more goes beyond any imaginable level of social discourse.” Klarides, in addition to being attorney, is a former ring girl for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
After receiving threats, the private college was forced to provide protection for students and temporarily close its doors. On Wednesday, Trinity College officials let faculty and students know that campus buildings could be accessed only with ID cards. The college released a tweet, saying: “Due to threats received and out of an abundance of caution, all campus buildings are card ID access only. Stay tuned.”
Trinity College do you support the racists hate speech of your professor Johnny Eric Williams who called for the death of all white people? pic.twitter.com/0gm9Yq9tjE— Lc (@frozenmn) June 22, 2017
Local police report that the threats are not specific and not credible, adding that they do not believe anyone on campus is in danger. However, Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney said in a statement, “The Dean of the Faculty will review this matter and advise me on whether college procedures or policies were broken. I told Professor Williams that in my opinion his use of the hashtag was reprehensible and, at the very least, in poor judgment. ”
Berger-Sweeney wrote: “As many of you are aware, a set of social media posts by one of our faculty members has resulted in a loud and public rebuke and landed Trinity College in a national spotlight, both in the media and across various social media platforms. I understand the concerns many have expressed, and I’m especially grateful for the inquiries we’ve received from members of our community who’ve asked whether what they’re reading and hearing is accurate. To be clear, both personally and on behalf of the College that I represent, I do not condone hate speech or calls to incite violence.
“I’ve spoken with Johnny Williams, who has been a sociology professor at Trinity since 1996. I wanted to hear directly from him about the messages he posted and what has transpired since. It is important to clarify a few details. On June 16, a writer who goes by the name ‘Son of Baldwin’—and who is not Johnny Williams—wrote a piece for Medium.com that cited another writer’s perspective on the shooting that occurred at the Congressional baseball practice in Virginia last week. The Medium piece went on to explore broader issues concerning race and the relationship between ‘victims of bigotry’ and ‘bigots.’ The piece culminated with a call to show indifference to the lives of bigots. That call was reprehensible, and any such suggestion is abhorrent and wholly contrary to Trinity’s values.”
Professors Williams teaches about race and racism and, while he did not write the article in question, he shared it on his personal social media accounts this week. He also used the hashtag that connected to the racist conclusion of that article, according to the college.
Berger-Sweeney went on to say, “The Dean of the Faculty will review this matter and advise me on whether college procedures or policies were broken. I told Professor Williams that in my opinion his use of the hashtag was reprehensible and, at the very least, in poor judgment. No matter its intent, it goes against our fundamental values as an institution, and I believe its effect is to close minds rather than open them.”
She went on to stress that the college seeks to “build a diverse college community that is welcoming to all viewpoints and backgrounds and that engages in civil discourse on even the most vexing issues. That requires that we continue to uphold our fundamental belief in academic freedom and support our community members’ constitutional right to free speech.” Berger-Sweeney said that “particular care” should be used with “words we use and the contexts in which we use them.
“This incident has caused distress on our campus and beyond; threats of violence have been directed to Professor Williams and to our campus community, neither of which is an acceptable response.
“I denounce hate speech in all its forms, I will explore all options to resolve this matter, and I will be back in touch with our community members with our decisions,” said Berger-Sweeney.
Trinity College has reiterated the school’s right on Facebook to remove comments that it deems “inappropriate, profane, defamatory, or disrespectful to users of the page and/or members of the greater Trinity College community,” but did not discipline Williams beyond that.