Nothing can ruin a Sunday morning like a New
York Times magazine article with a dubious title such as, “Toward
a Unified Theory of Black America.” The alarm bells are immediate
because the Times loves to give attention to black people who
are either in jail or on welfare or who have impeccable credentials
but who are horribly confused.
Roland Fryer is in the latter category. He
is a 27-year old assistant professor of economics at Harvard.
His ideas explain why economics
is called the dismal science. The word dismal doesn’t begin to
describe the damage to black people that Fryer and his ilk can
Fryer and his colleagues in the economics department at Harvard
somehow managed to get attention by repeating an old medical theory
that seeks to explain higher rates of cardio vascular disease among
black Americans. It has been hypothesized that survival during
the middle passage from Africa to the Americas favored those whose
bodies were best able to retain salt and fluids.
“Absolutely there’s an insulation effect. There’s no question
that working with Roland is somewhat liberating,” chirps one of
his white colleagues, Edward L. Glaeser. Fryer’s friends don’t
need to be insulated from discussion about the salt retention abilities
of black people. They need the protection he gives them when they
seek to prove that everything is A-OK in America. If it works fine
then anyone who isn’t doing well, like black people, have only
themselves to blame.
The Times article details Fryer’s very difficult upbringing. His
father, who was convicted of rape, was an abusive alcoholic. Fryer’s
great aunt and cousins are serving very long prison sentences for
drug dealing. It is commendable that he overcame these familial
challenges to earn a Ph.D. and teach at a prestigious educational
Unfortunately the Fryers among us are more
dangerous if they are allowed to get some book learnin’ than if they had none at all.
Immediately after winning the brass ring they begin the stale lamentations
about the state of black America. What is wrong with black people?
Why don’t they do better?
It never occurs to them to ask different questions. What is wrong
with the rest of the country? Why is there no Ivy League professor
who explains the irresponsible behavior of white people? Individuals,
corporations and the government are all irresponsible. Why are
only black people poked, prodded and studied to find out why they
act in the way they do?
Where is the unified theory of white America?
What happened in the Bush family to create people who steal elections,
rob the treasury
and turn us all into corporate serfs? Did Barbara drop George and
Jeb on their heads when they were babies? Perhaps the Bush boys
couldn’t live with the shame of knowing that their granddad did
business with Nazi Germany after the United States had declared
war on Hitler. Maybe the Bush family is genetically inferior.
Confused black people shouldn’t be allowed
to earn Ph.D.s or teach at universities. They should go through
a vetting process first.
Perhaps a team of psychologists might interview the candidates
before they are allowed to get lots of letters behind their names
and then inform the rest of us that we are just no good.
Anyone who uses personal family experience
to explain away the wrongs in American society would be eliminated
for higher education. They might be sent to vocational school instead.
They can make a decent living but their personal issues couldn’t
be used by the New York Times in its effort to make the rest of
us hate ourselves.
There is no end to the foolishness. Fryer thinks that black children
would perform better in school if they were paid to learn. Recently
this columnist took entertainment impresario and would be political
Simmons to task for saying the very same thing. If Harvard
professors have as little sense as Russell Simmons then no one
should save a small fortune or spend money on SAT prep courses
to get their kids into those allegedly hallowed halls.
Fryer muses about the persistent gap in test
scores for black children. “As soon as you say something like, ‘Well, could the
black-white test-score gap be genetics?’ everybody gets tensed
up. But why shouldn’t that be on the table?”
So be it. Let’s find out why Asian kids continue to best their
white counterparts on standardized tests. What will Fryer say when
white people get “tensed up” over theories positing their own genetic
Here is another homework assignment for Fryer. Maybe he can explain
why white people looted Enron and Worldcom. Maybe he can tell us
why white people killed 100,000 Iraqis to help their friends make
Should he be willing to accept this mission he will of course
have his head handed to him. The New York Times will not have nice
things to say about him. If he asks his friends to insulate him
from criticism he will surely get the cold shoulder.
It is all very simple. The powerful group is never examined. They
can get away with everything from slavery to colonization to the
eradication of native peoples to the creation of a prison industrial
complex to the privatization of foreign nations and they will never
be told that they are inferior to anyone.
Fryer needs to get busy. He has his work cut out for him.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly
in . Ms.
Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City. She
can be reached via e-Mail at [email protected].
You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com/