Remembrance: J. Philippe Rushton
J. Philippe Rushton, who became the face of academic racism arguing that people of African descent had smaller brains and larger genitalia than Asians and Whites, died of Addisons disease Tuesday October 2, 2012 in London, Ontario where he taught racist psychology since 1977.
His passing marks the end of a generation of academics who made racism respectable in academia at a time when racist attitudes were widely reviled. With far greater success than the Holocaust Revisionists they managed to make a place for theories of genetic superiority and inferiority. He leaves a pernicious legacy that will not be easily undone.
In many ways, I owe my present position to Rushton. I came to Ferris State University in 1989 as a visiting assistant professor of history. During my first semester at Ferris, Rushton became a national sensation when his claims of black racial inferiority became media fodder. I had just completed my Ph.D. on the eugenics movement in America and had published a few articles in obscure academic magazines on the resurgent eugenics represented by new young scholars like Rushton. That was enough to attract the attention of the media and by the end of that year, I had appeared together with Rushton on the Donahue Show and the Geraldo Show both of which were aired live in March 1989. We would later be featured on Inside Edition, hosted by a young Bill O'Reilly. There followed apprearances on Canadian Public Television, Australian Public Television, the Jane Wallace Show and many others. The extraordinary public exposure assured my position at Ferris and by 1990, I had been offered a tenure track position.
Rushton and I enjoyed a good rapport in the early days. Our hosts on these shows had an segregationist policy, putting the academic racists in one room and their opponents in another. Then, like professional boxers, we were brought out to meet under the lights and duke it out. But when two limos arrived to take us to the same airport, we simply got into the first one together, giving us a chance to chat away from the cameras. Phil was a nice guy, handsome and pretty much unflappable. The Geraldo Show was provacatively titled: Is There a Master Race? Geraldo opened the show asking Rushton a short set of pointed questions: When studying brain size, what did you find? Rushton answered professionally and succinctly, Asians had the largest brains, blacks had the smallest brains with whites in the middle.
"When studying genitalia what did you find?"
As Rushton began to obfuscate, Geraldo interrupted… I want to know, who has the largest penis and who has the smallest?
Rushton collected himself and explained that with regard to all genitalia, Asians have the smallest genitalia and blacks have the largest with whites in between.
Geraldo smiled and said, "so we win one."
When Geraldo turned to me, I said, that I have my Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in the study of academic racism. I am trained to recognize a racist when I see one. Rushton is a racist." My comment brought applause from the audience, but Rushton was magnificent. He defended his controversial views brilliantly against an array of experts, a studio audience and a very sharp and hostile, Geraldo Rivera.
The Donahue Show was much more civilized with just Rushton and I for an hour discussion with Phil Donahue and his audience. Rushton emerged from these performances the spokesman for the academic racists who were fighting to have their racial theories taken seriously as science. To a large extent, Rushton and his colleagues were successful in making a place for themselves. Today, the leading lights of Rushton's generation are generally treated respectfully in academia.
Instead of a simple obituary, we have set up a biography page for Rushton and will post obituaries and other links as they become available. Dr. Mehler will also extend these initial remarks into a more comprehensive analysis of Rushton theories and his significance.
Dr. Barry Mehler
Institute for the Study of Academic Racism