FSU Professor Signs on to Supremacist Book

Glayde Whitney writes the foreword to David Duke's book, calling it an "excellent work."

By Melanie Yeager
TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER
March 23, 1999

A Florida State University professor believes former-Klansman, now-politician David Duke uses good science to support a book some call a "white-supremacist diatribe."

Glayde Whitney, a professor specializing in behavior genetics, has written a foreword to Duke's latest book, "My Awakening," which calls for separate nations for blacks and whites and says blacks are inferior to whites.

Whitney, whose work is with mice, not humans, calls Duke's book "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."

Duke is seeking the Louisiana congressional office previously held by Bob Livingston. The former Ku Klux Klan leader has said the 85-percent white district near New Orleans "is made for me."

Whitney, 59, said Monday he has no political agenda except to back scientific truth.

But Mark Potok, quarterly journal editor at Klanwatch, which is operated by the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that by writing the foreword, Whitney has aligned himself with some well-known supremacists.

In addition to his ties to Duke, Potok said Whitney is a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens, which advocates segregation and has been labeled racist by critics.

"The fact that a so-called man of science would put his name to an introduction that is absolutely fawning in nature, I think that is remarkable," Potok said.

Whitney also spoke last fall at a gathering hosted by white separatist author Jared Taylor's American Renaissance.

Whitney told the audience that black people are "bigger in bone, smaller in brain," according to poverty center reports.

Potok said when Duke left the Klan in the late '80s, he called his tainted past youthful folly and traded his Klan garb for a three-piece suit. With "My Awakening," Duke has returned "explicitly white-supremacist," he said.

Whitney said what he writes about is not white supremacist in nature.

"I think everybody should be treated the same under the law. That is not the same as saying everybody is the same. I'm a little, short, fat, old man," Whitney said, "not a professional basketball player."

He notes, for example, that most professional basketball athletes are black.

"That's superiority in sports. Different groups have different talents, and part of the differences seems to be genetic. I don't think there's anything evil or mean in acknowledging it," Whitney said.

"Superiority is a value judgment. I'm just acknowledging differences."

Whitney's work has stirred up the issue of academic freedom at FSU.

Don Foss, dean of the college of arts and sciences and a psychologist himself, said Whitney is a well-trained mouse behavior geneticist and that in 1995, Whitney served as president of the Behavior Genetics Association, a national group of researchers.

But Foss disagrees with Whitney's conclusions on racial genetics.

"His comments about aggression among people of different ethnic groups and effects on cities in my opinion is substantially beyond what the data warrants," Foss said.

"I think he has generalized beyond what most scientists would do and find appropriate . . . I don't think he's done the science here."

But Foss and other FSU leaders are supporting Whitney's right to follow his own reasoning and conclusions.

"I'm a believer in academic freedom, and today is one of the days when that belief gets tested. It's easy to say that when people say things you agree with."

Foss does not believe one professor's outlook will impact the diverse student body FSU consistently attracts and makes welcome.

Psychology department chairman Robert Contreras said although Whitney is a highly respected scientist and generally gets good ratings from students, his view that who we are is determined by genetics moreso than our experiences sparks controversy.

Contreras said he considers Whitney a friend and that political opinions have never surfaced between them. He does not know whether Whitney expounds on these Duke-like ideas in his classes -- survey of behavior genetics, psychology history and systems.

"It's not something I ever would have dared to touch," Contreras said of Whitney's foreword for the controversial Duke.

Even Whitney says in his foreword that he writes it with "great trepidation" -- even with the backing of the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech and the knowledge of his own academic tenure.

Whitney has worked at FSU almost 30 years. He now earns $56,026 for his nine-month contract. He is supported by several grants, including $87,700 from the Pioneer Fund Inc. last July to study behavior genetics in human affairs.

He also is working under a $9,999 grant from the National Institutes of Health for mouse breeding studies.

Much of his past work focused on a behavior genetic approach to chemosensory. They were funded through the National Institute of Neurological Disease and National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Whitney said he is scheduled for a sabbatical next school year. He plans to work with census and demographic data to study racial similarities and differences. He does not plan to campaign for Duke, who is seeking to succeed Livingston in the May 1 election, he said.

He thinks other scientists believe as he does but fear the "hostile" media, which he says tends to smear Duke with allegations of racism. Whitney said he had hoped the media would ignore his book contribution.

Whitney has met Duke and describes the politician as "a very bright guy," rich in scientific knowledge. "He's not the evil monster you get the impression of in the media."

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