A professor at a Connecticut college said he was forced to flee the state after he received death threats for appearing to endorse the idea that first responders to last week’s congressional shooting should have let the victims "f**king die” instead of treating them, according to the Hartford Courant.
Trinity College Professor Johnny Eric Williams shared a link to a medium post which suggested that “bigots” should be left to die in life threatening situations. The medium article was accompanied by a photo of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was wounded in the shooting, along with the title “Let Them F**ing Die,” which Williams later used as a hashtag in his ill-conceived posts.
In the post, the author describes a list of disturbing situations in which “bigots” should be left to die, while also encouraging readers to “smile a bit” as these figurative deaths unfold.
“If you see them drowning. If you see them in a burning building. If they are bleeding out in an emergency room. If the ground is crumbling beneath them. If they are in a park and they turn their weapons on each other: do nothing,” the article instructs readers."
“Least of all put your life on the line for theirs, and do not dare think doing so, putting your life on the line for theirs, gives you reason to feel celestial. Save the life of those that would kill you is the opposite of virtuous. Let. Them. Fucking. Die. And smile a bit when you do.”
Williams also expressed his rage toward white people in a series of tweets. In one, Williams said he was “fed the f**k up” with white “bigots” who demean minorities, immigrants and LGBTQ people. In another, he said the time had come to “put end to the vectors of their destructive mythology of whiteness and their white supremacy system.”
As a result of the posts, which gained national attention, Williams said he has received more than 1,000 threats. The situation briefly forced the closure of Trinity College’s campus in downtown Hartford Thursday morning. The campus had reopened by late morning, though Hartford police provided heightened security.
Unlike the administration at Evergreen State College in Washington, which has been willing to countenance threatening behavior and other provocations from its students, Trinity’s administrators have promised to hold Williams accountable for his actions, promising in a statement that there would be “an investigation" into Williams' conduct.
"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."
Williams said he regrets the affect his actions have had on his family.
"It was overwhelming for my family," Williams said. "I have to look out for family. I've got young kids."
But rather than apologize for offending millions of Americans - not to mention the families of Scalise and the other four victims of the rampage shooting at an early-morning practice of the House Republicans baseball team – Williams claims his tweet was misinterpreted. He says the tweet was a response to the fatal shooting of a pregnant woman in Seattle who was armed with a knife.
And what’s worse, he has committed 100% to playing the victim, saying that he’s considering filing a lawsuit.
"This is about free speech as well as academic freedom," he said. "From my perspective, I'm considering whether I should file a defamation against Campus Reform, the site that first shared Williams’ posts.
"The black community is beside itself all over the country with the constant killing. It doesn't matter what we do, we still be killed, we still go to jail. Just being black and living is a crime. That's what seems to be the problem," Williams told the Courant.
Read the full text of Trinity's statement below:
Dear Members of the Trinity Community,
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.
While Professor Williams did not write that article, he did share it on his personal social media accounts this week, and he did so with the use of a hashtag that connected directly to the inflammatory conclusion of that article. Professor Williams, who teaches about race and racism, shared the article on his personal Twitter account using that hashtag; he also shared it on his personal Facebook page.
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.
I want to underscore that what we seek is 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. But our aspirations for the community we want to be also demand we take particular care with the 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.