Roland Fryer Jr. was born in a poor neighborhood of Daytona Beach, in the US state of Florida. In a few days, he was abandoned by his mother, who he would only meet after he was 20 years old. Raised in Texas by his father, an alcoholic gambling addict, he even committed petty robberies and lost friends to drug trafficking. For his good basketball performance, he won a scholarship to the University of Texas at Arlington, where he fell in love with economics. His rise was meteoric: at 30 years old, he became the second youngest professor to be held at Harvard University – the first black -, with an impressive list of awards, honors and interviews on TV programs in the curriculum.
(It is worth remembering that, in American and British universities, the title of professor is a title of honor, usually granted to those who are at their peak. or at the end of their careers. Tenure gives academics great stability, potentially for life)
Until, in mid-2003, Fryer was suddenly accused of sexual harassment – and summarily canceled by Harvard. Four years after his removal from one of the most prestigious universities in the world, a mini-documentary questions the process to which the economist was subjected, giving indications that the disproportionate punishment was motivated not by a flagrant case of abuse (of which there is, in fact, little conclusive evidence), but out of ideological persecution. After all, in 2016, Fryer committed the “nonsense” of publishing a survey indicating that although ethnic minorities (blacks and Latinos) were more likely to experience the use of police force than whites in the United States, they were no more at risk of being shot by the police than whites.
Moved by a genuine desire to improve the living conditions of black children in peripheral neighborhoods, Fryer began early to disturb the status
–quo. In 2003, the economist investigated the theory that black students did poorly in school because getting high grades would be seen as a “white attitude”, causing them to be bullied by the school. black community. Based on survey data for tens of thousands of public school students, Fryer found that while white and Asian students tended to steadily gain friends as they excelled in school, black students often began to lose friends, raising disturbing questions about the demands placed on these children, as well as their imagination.
Then, investigating the success of the Harlem Children’s Zone – a famous educational project in New York in which poor students tend to outperform those of elite schools -, Fryer found that the main ingredient of the phenomenon was the culture of high expectations, a finding that clashed with the politically correct view that if performance tests indicate educational problems in the marginalized population, the solution is to eliminate them. . “We shouldn’t expect so much from you. Now, we’re going to teach you the Pythagorean Theorem”, said the economist, to illustrate the meaninglessness of these proposals. A common-sense enthusiast, Fryer recounted in lectures that she called her maternal grandmother to share her research findings. “Are they paying you to ‘discover’ this?” she would say.
In the years that followed, the call to Harvard would come, an invitation to head a program of study in New York, the appointment to the MacArthur Fellow – scholarship awarded to researchers considered, literally, genius – and the John Bates Clark Medal, given to outstanding economists under 40 years old. Five years after this award would come the article on police approaches that would put him on a collision course with Harvard’s elite – famously, researcher Claudine Gay, head of the university’s chair of African American studies, and Larry D. Bobo, renowned professor of social science, with whom Fryer publicly debated. Both insisted that the problems faced by the black population boiled down to what today, in Brazil, is understood by “structural racism”.
“He (Fryer) is more likely to say something like this: you don’t know shit what black people need. And he’s more likely to say that not just to a white man, but to one of those domesticated blacks in bow-tie who’ve never seen a housing project from the inside. He will tell you: you don’t know what a cracolândia is. You’ve never been anywhere near a place where gunshots are heard at two in the morning and no one knows where they came from. I’ve noticed that they don’t like these kinds of people at Harvard,” says economist Glenn Loury, a professor at Brown University and one of Fryer’s mentors.
Prosecution, investigation and Trial 2019
In March 2018, Roland Fryer was officially removed from his post at Harvard following an accusation of sexual harassment brought by an ex -Secretary fired from her team. In an article for Quillette magazine, screenwriter Rob Montz, one of the authors of the documentary who had access to the reports of the process, bluntly exposes that the economist’s conduct was not impeccable:
“The final report paints a portrait of a man who could be insensitive to power asymmetries in the workplace and who crossed borders with subordinates. He made some arguably inappropriate jokes in the office, such as saying that an elderly university administrator ‘hasn’t had sex since black people were slaves.’ however, it starts with the way the process went: in the United States, a Title IX investigation, such as the one with Fryer, implies lower standards for the consideration of evidence than in normal trials, and the r Gods are often not allowed to confront the accuser or appeal the verdict. According to Montz, even less conservative jurists consider it disproportionate.
A new succession of abuses marked the outcome of the case: after extensive investigation, the committee responsible for the case at Harvard concluded that there was no evidence that Fryer had touched someone or even made sexual proposals. It was recommended that, as punishment, the economist undergo “training” in conduct.
In the absence of the recommendation, a group of administrators determined the suspension of Fryer for two years, without the right to salary and decreed the closing of his research laboratory that had received millionaire investments. Among the members of this committee were Professor Claudine Gay and Professor Larry Bobo. Claudine even asked the Harvard president to revoke Fryer’s title, which would have been an unprecedented decision in the university’s history. The request was refused.
None of this prevented Fryer from submitting his resignation in December 2018. In a letter to The New York Times, the “cancelled” professor expressed regret for having “allowed, encouraged and participated” in an atmosphere in the research lab that included “lewd jokes” and comments about personal lives, but denied bullying, retaliation against employees. or sexual advances.
In 2019, Claudine Gay would become dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. In June of last year, Larry D. Bobo, now dean of the Faculty of Economics at the institution, announced that Fryer had been granted permission to return to teaching at Harvard “under certain conditions”: among them, Claudine’s personal supervision. In an editorial that borders on the unbelievable, the university newspaper The Harvard Crimson links Fryer’s return to the “culture of harassment.”
Meanwhile, the documentary “Harvard canceled its best black professor. Why?” was watched more than 100 a thousand times and passed away from the mainstream media, being passed on only by the New York Post and independent vehicles such as the newsletter by journalist Bari Weiss, a former member of The New York Times. In his few appearances in recent years – among them, interviews with mentor Glenn Loury and the American Enterprise Institute (EAI) – Roland Fryer has never denied his discoveries about what is really behind racial disparity in the United States, which reinforces the certainty that old challenges await you at Harvard.