Public Enemy is at the center of a new media maelstrom after its publicist recently sent a small group of reviewers copies of a controversial pamphlet on white supremacy and racism along with advance tapes of the group's new album, "Fear of a Black Planet." Harry Allen, PE's "director of enemy relations" and self-styled "hip-hop activist and media assassin," enclosed the 15-page "Cress Theory of Color-Confrontation and Racism (White Supremacy)," written in 1970 by Washington psychiatrist Frances Cress Welsing. In the paper, which Allen says "should be seen as some of the inspiration" for the album, Welsing holds that "the quality of whiteness is ... a genetic inadequacy or a relative genetic deficiency state or disease based upon the genetic inability to produce the skin pigments of melanin which are responsible for all skin coloration."

According to Welsing's theory, whites hate themselves because of pigment envy. The resulting inferiority complex, along with "a profound sense of numerical inadequacy" fostered by white minority status in a world population dominated by people of color, creates a neurotic drive for superiority, evidenced by survival paranoia and aggression toward other races. According to Welsing's paper, pigment envy is evident in white people's fascination with tanning, described as "an attempt to add some color to their white, pale, colorless bodies," and in their sexual alliances with nonwhites "because it is only through this route that whites can achieve the illusion of producing color."

The pamphlet is not officially a part of the "Fear of a Black Planet" album, and lead rapper Chuck D has not mentioned it in interviews in recent months. Welsing and her theory are not mentioned in the press bio accompanying the album either, though both are mentioned extensively in an Allen-written bio rejected by Def Jam records. The album credits, however, do list Welsing as an "influential inspiration," along with Neely Fuller Jr., author of "Textbook for Victims of White Supremacy." Allen calls them the two most controversial race theorists in America today, responsible for "some of the strongest and most relevant writing done on racism, raciality, oppression and other race issues." Allen explained on Monday that "the connection between Dr. Welsing and Public Enemy is one of allusion. We make allusion to her through the album title and Chuck D says things on {the title cut} particularly that are in line with parts of her theory." That song deals with miscegenation and racial purity and paranoia.

According to Allen, Public Enemy hopes to sponsor forums along the lines of "Nightline's" town meetings. "In the future," he said, "we would like to use our visibility to give people who are saying crucial, important things about our condition a spotlight ... create a platform for discussing various new ideas. Dr. Welsing and Mr. Fuller are prime people for this kind of contexture."

Welsing said on Monday that she had had no contact with the rap group before the release of the album and has only spoken with Allen. "It was quite surprising to me," she said, adding that "I'm not one to keep up with pop culture and I do not have adolescent children or young people who are involved in rap." She notes that her theory is quite well known in the black community and that she's not surprised that some rock critics are "annoyed that a black person would write about white behavior." Welsing, one of three dozen "Legends in Our Time" in the 20th anniversary issue of Essence, now on the newsstand, is a well-known psychiatrist who is often sought out by the media for her views on black mental health issues. Her "Color Confrontation" paper was published when she was an assistant professor in the pediatrics department at Howard University; according to Welsing, she was denied tenure there in 1975 because of her theories. She has been a frequent guest on talk shows, and in 1988 Phil Donahue devoted an hour to her theory. She has also engaged in debate with William Shockley, author of a controversial theory of black genetic inferiority. (Interestingly, PE producer Hank Boxley took Hank Shocklee as a nom de guerre in response to Shockley's discredited theories.)

As to assertions that her theory is racist, Welsing said that "like in medicine, the first thing you have to do about tuberculosis is understand what it is, and then you go forward from there to talk about a solution." She sees her theory as "a challenge to white behavioral scientists to help white people on the planet become comfortable with their numbers and their color, because if they become comfortable with their minority status and their genetic recessive status and stop getting upset about it so they're really in a posture of respecting themselves, then they can be in a posture to respect other people. It also mentions that when black people hear these negative things that are constantly being fed about blacks, they will understand that it is a projection on the part of people who are not feeling comfortable with themselves and stop taking it to heart."

The PE album, released to mostly glowing reviews, hardly needs a controversy-boost. It sold more than a million copies in its first week and is currently at No. 19 on the Billboard charts, despite limited airplay for the first single, "911 Is a Joke" (the video is in regular rotation on MTV and BET). The next single will be "Brothers Gonna Work It Out," and PE will start touring in July. Look for a Capital Centre date, possibly with N.W.A. alumnus Ice Cube as an opening act. Ice Cube's upcoming Priority album, "Amerikka's Most Wanted," featuring his new band, the Lynch Mob, was produced by PE leader Chuck D and the Bomb Squad. Titles include "Once Upon a Time in the Projects," "The Nigger You Love to Hate" and "Endangered Species." Ice Cube was N.W.A.'s chief lyricist, and the future of that group is now in question, particularly since Ice Cube is suing it for money he claims is owed to him.