Tampa Tribune

3/21/99 -- 1:10 AM

Professor's race writings raise hackles

By MICHAEL FECHTER of The Tampa Tribune

TAMPA - A Florida State professor sides with David Duke in espousing white racial superiority.

Armed with supposed scientific evidence, David Duke is making another political comeback.

Riding shotgun with the former Ku Klux Klan leader is a tenured Florida State University psychologist whose writings contributed to Duke's scientific backing for his claims that black people are genetically inferior to whites. Schools should be resegregated in acknowledgment of this perceived scientific fact, Duke argues in a new autobiography.

That comes in part from Glayde Whitney, the FSU psychologist who wrote the book's foreword and calls it ``a painstakingly documented, academically excellent work of socio-biological-political history that has the potential to raise tremendous controversy and change the very course of history.''

Whitney works primarily with mice not human genetics, but he pulls together statistical data on crime rates and IQ tests to argue blacks are predisposed to violence and are less intelligent than whites.

Whitney writes that he knew penning the foreword to Duke's autobiography, ``My Awakening,'' would generate criticism, citing what he considered an unrelenting smear campaign against Duke.

``His [Duke's] grasp of this area of research is quite remarkable for having a degree in history rather than a doctorate in the biological disciplines,'' Whitney wrote.

Whitney did not respond to calls for comment. In other writing - three articles of Whitney's are posted on Duke's Internet site - he dismisses critics as products of Marxist-fueled political correctness.

That Whitney is employed by a state university - with a salary paid for by taxpayer money and with tenure - galls his most vocal critics. But they don't aim to bury him, just expose his assertions as junk science.

``Don't make him a martyr. There are enough of those out there,'' said Barry Mehler, director of the Institute for the Study of Academic Racism at Ferris State University in Michigan.

Racial theories such as those pushed by Whitney existed a generation ago, but have slowly gained credence in the mainstream, Mehler said. Unchallenged, the theories get woven into political debates on issues such as affirmative action and immigration. ``The Bell Curve,'' a controversial 1995 best-selling book, shows that ideas once considered on the lunatic fringe can now gain traction.

Whitney, who came to FSU in 1970 and now earns $56,026, is supported by a variety of independent and government grants. He received $87,700 from the Pioneer Fund last July to study behavior genetics in human affairs, university records show.

The Pioneer Fund was created in 1937 and has a history of financing genetic research on racial differences.

Whitney has also received $1.1 million from the National Institute on Deafness and Communication disorders since 1990.

His academic standing gives Whitney a patina of legitimacy, said psychologist David Wiesenthal of York University in Toronto, Canada. ``These are not just guys mouthing off in a bar here. They have the potential of using their prestige to further their agenda.''

In fact, Whitney served as president of the Behavior Genetics Association, a national group of researchers, in 1995. But some members called for his resignation after he gave a speech at the end of his term in which he said blacks were predisposed to violence.

``Like it or not,'' Whitney said, ``it is a reasonable scientific hypothesis that some, perhaps much, of the race difference in murder rate is caused by genetic differences in contributory variables such as low intelligence, lack of empathy, aggressive acting out and impulsive lack of foresight.''

``The very high murder rate for Washington, D.C. is simply what one would predict, given knowledge of its population composition.''

Duke's Web page prominently features the speech's text.

Blacks, Whitney said in a meeting last fall, ``were bigger in bone, smaller in brain,'' more aggressive sexually and prone to seek sex with white girls, according to the Intelligence Report, a journal focusing on extremist groups published by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala.

Using that logic, Wiesenthal wonders, would that make white people genetically predisposed toward fraud and embezzlement, since they are disproportionately represented in those crimes?

FSU President Sandy D'Alemberte has read some of Whitney's writing and hasn't ``seen anything I find agreeable.''

But he can't do anything about it. Free speech and academic freedom protect Whitney.

``It would be surprising if you had a university where people didn't have some views that weren't mainstream and offensive,'' D'Alemberte said.

Similar challenges have cropped up at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., where engineering professor Arthur Butz drew attention by posting Holocaust denials on the school's Internet page. Northwestern decided not to interfere with Butz's right of expression.

That right was upheld by a U.S. appellate court in the case of City University of New York Professor Leonard Jeffries. Like Whitney, Jeffries sees a racial intellectual gap as scientific fact. But Jeffries says blacks are superior to whites because of melanin in their skin.

The court ruled CUNY could remove Jeffries from a department chairman's post but could not alter his tenured status.

Whitney also is a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a segregationist group labeled as racist by Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson.

Genetic superiority theories by whites are nothing new and not necessarily worth tremendous anxiety, said William Jones, a religious studies professor who created Florida State's black studies program in 1977.

``You go back and you show that scientific evidence is false. It's not that difficult to do,'' Jones said.

It's just bad science, said University of Florida sociologist Joe Feagin.

The studies touted by Whitney and others like him cobble statistical data with no control groups. IQ tests are better gauges of skill than intelligence, and they don't consider cultural and economic factors, said Feagin, who studies racism.

``I'm a fierce devotee of academic freedom,'' Feagin said, ``brought into the open light of scientific examination and debate. The more you try to suppress ideas such as this, the more people want to buy into them.''