The woke Left never hesitates to instruct the rest of us about “how to be an antiracist,” and it turns out that there’s only one way to do so – their way. Anyone who disagrees, particularly any black person, finds his/her neck on the chopping block. Being actually black is no defense to a woke charge of racism. Indeed, the progressive Left often reserves its most extreme vitriol for blacks who question the received Word. The apostate is always more reviled than the mere unbeliever.
Consider Harvard’s star economics professor, Roland Fryer. Fryer’s exactly the type of professor pretty much any university should want. He pulled himself up from a very disadvantaged background, excelled in college, earned a PhD. in economics and went to work at Harvard. There he won a MacArthur Prize and the prestigious John Bates Clark Medal for the world’s most promising young economist. He headed up an independent research lab, mentored students, actively promoted their careers and applied economic principles to the social problems besetting black Americans. He gained tenure at an earlier age than any black professor in the history of Harvard.
From here, Fryer looks like the woke ideal made flesh. But no. Alas, his research uncovered truths that conflicted with woke ideology, an impermissible violation.
In 2009, he published a study of how academic success affected the popularity of high school students. It’s no secret that many black students report paying a price in popularity for earning high grades because doing so is seen by their peers as being “white.” Sure enough, Fryer found that both black and Hispanic kids saw their popularity decline as their grades rose.
Two years later, he examined Harlem Children’s Zone charter schools and found that black students often surpassed whites in public and elite private schools. That was in large part due to the high expectations the schools had for their students. Black underperformance in school may be little more than the failure of public schools to demand students’ best.
Then he looked into the killing of suspects by police and rather famously found no racial aspect to the phenomenon. There’s no greater likelihood that the police will kill a black suspect than a white one, indeed, the opposite may be true. How could he come to such a conclusion when about one-fourth of those slain by police are blacks who make up less than 13% of the population? Fryer did the obvious and the verboten. He looked at the behavior of those killed and found that black suspects were more likely to behave aggressively toward police than were people of other ethnicities and so were more likely to be on the receiving end of lethal force.
All of that contradicts woke ideology on the subject of race. The idea that black behavior can influence black outcomes is anathema to the notion of “systemic racism” in which unequal outcomes are proof positive of but a single thing – racism. It strikes at the very heart of the theory that blacks are forever the victims of a racist white society. Roland Fryer posed a threat to basic tenets of woke ideology.
Fortuitously for Harvard’s woke, a woman who worked with Fryer filed a complaint with the school alleging sexual harassment by him and the Office for Dispute Resolution investigated. Now, many of Fryer’s subordinates came to his defense, particularly economics doctoral student, Tanaya Devi, who’s been quite clear on what she thinks of the complainant, who was once her close friend, and her complaints. Here she’s quoted in Stuart Taylor’s highly informative article:
Devi could not recall “a single instance” when the complainant “expressed the slightest hint of discomfort” with the off-color tenor of some of the jokes and teasing by Fryer and others that were common in the lab. She said her former friend is “weaponizing an incredibly important movement for personal gains or revenge.”
In the end, some 35 infractions were investigated by the ODR. It rejected 28 of them outright some of which appeared to be pure fabrications. Still, the remaining seven were deemed more likely than not. Those were pretty minor breeches – off-color jokes, ill-considered phrasing, inappropriate flirtatiousness. No one even alleged any form of sexual misbehavior by Fryer and the ODR recommended that his punishment be limited to “training” in how to better relate to subordinates. In short, minor offenses were to be met with minor punishment.
But the matter didn’t end there. According to investigative journalist Rob Montz,
That finding was transformed into an effort to derail his entire career: A small group of Harvard administrators overruled Harvard’s own Title IX office, suspended Professor Fryer without pay for two years, banned him from campus, and shut down his multi-million dollar education laboratory. He was a tenured professor, and they couldn’t get rid of him completely. But they could do their best to excommunicate him.
All but two of those administrators remain anonymous. Those two are Dean of Arts and Sciences, Claudine Gay and Social Sciences Dean Lawrence Bobo. Both are black, both come from the type of highly privileged backgrounds Fryer did not and both adhere to the woke ideology that his research findings tend to undermine.
Given all that – the relatively trivial complaints, the recommendation of the ODR and the draconian nature of the final punishment, it’s hard to conclude anything but that Fryer was targeted (perhaps not by the complainant, but certainly by those administrators) for his findings that deviate so sharply from the woke ideology that reigns supreme at Harvard. That’s made all the clearer as reported by Montz:
[T]ake the case of Professor John Comaroff, a senior faculty member of the African American Studies Department, whose work conforms closely to the approved shibboleths about “the criminalization of race.” He was found guilty of sexually harassing graduate students in 2020, but his punishment consisted of mere paid administrative leave. For significantly less serious offenses, Fryer was subjected to far more severe punishment.
Fryer’s cancellation for nothing but Wrong Think is close to complete and stands as a dire warning to others who might be tempted to blaspheme against the One True Faith.
This article was originally posted at The Word of Damocles.