Katie Cerulle ’22
Racism, or better defined by Professor Johnny Williams as white racism, is pervasive in society today, holding the oppressed as a sub-human group within our illusory hierarchy. Professor Williams has dedicated the latter part of his career to educating those willing to listen on the structural policies and ideologies that have led to our systemically white racist society.
Before Trinity College, Professor Williams spent many years earning mul- tiple degrees. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas, two master’s degrees from University of Arkansas and from Brandeis University, as well as a PhD in sociology, also from Brandeis. To fund his education, Professor Williams was enrolled in the ROTC program. In 1991, while attending Brandeis, he was called to active duty and was deployed in Somalia. He returned from Somalia and completed his PhD in 1994. After working a few years at Colorado College, Professor Williams headed to the Northeast, and has worked in the Sociology department at Trinity College since 1996.
As a professor of sociology, Professor Williams teaches multiple classes dedicated to informing students of the structures and impacts of the society humanity has created. When prompted to discuss his favorite course to teach, he indicated his racism course, because of its personal connections. When asked to provide a definition of racism in the United States, Williams replied that, “it’s not racism. It’s systemic white racism. Our society creates the group mentality that we are all socialized into. Things like race are fictional ideologies that we create, and so it becomes real purely because people believe it is.”
His racism transforms conceptions of how the country operates. He centralizes his course around the idea that racism in America is a collective endeavor, created by society as a whole and perpetuated by individuals who accept the norms of white privilege. The systems that we implement perpetuate the idea of whiteness as an ideology, meaning the internalization of gaining privileges that others within the racially categorized other do not receive.
Williams was also willing to discuss his controversial Twitter account, which gained media attention after he made a post stating “Whiteness is terrorism.” He explained, “I was not talking about white people, I was discussing the white- ness ideology. The internalized idea of people who believe they are of the ‘white’ race and are exploiting the defined ‘other.’” As Williams explained, our “created hierarchy roots itself in fallacious science constructed to manipulate a defined subhuman race, being that there is no biological evidence of genetic difference between someone of one so called race versus another. Even our current language, for example, the use of the term people of color, creates the standard of human as white.”
Williams ended his interview positively, stressing his belief that humanity is capable of achieving an equitable society. He stated, “the first step is to acknowledge the problem and recognize these systems of oppression,” and also expressed, “we all have the power to change our reality.”