Friday, January 19, 2007
- The New York Times spotlights Roland G. Fryer, a rising star in the field of economics who draws on multiple disciplines in an effort to derive a "Unified Theory of Black America" (by Stephen J. Dubner, coauthor of Freakonomics). Taking into account the circumstances of his childhood, Fryer has also beat incredible odds:
Fryer's heroes are not contemporary economists like Glenn Loury or James Heckman or Gary Becker, even though he admires their work on racial issues and has been mentored by all three of them. Nor are his models the estimable crowd of Afro-American scholars assembled at Harvard by Gates, who happens to be Fryer's next-door neighbor. There is only one forebear whom Fryer aspires to emulate: W.E.B. DuBois, the fiercely interdisciplinary black scholar and writer who helped to pioneer the field of ethnography. "The problem of the 20th century," DuBois said, presciently, in 1900, "is the problem of the color line."Dr. Fryer spent a year or so here teaching at the University of Chicago, so I had a chance to speak to him briefly now and then. Read his story and you will be amazed and heartened by how far Fryer's come - and where he's headed - at the young age of 27. Definitely one to watch.
In person, Fryer gives the appearance of coming from a middle-class background, some kind of Cosby kid all grown up. But as I spent more time with him, it became obvious that that wasn't remotely the case. He began to tell me stories about his past that -- although I didn't know it then -- he didn't share with people in his ''new life,'' as he called it.
One morning, as we sat on a bench in Central Park in New York, he talked about his childhood in Daytona Beach, Fla. When he was a boy, he sometimes lived there with his grandmother Farrise, whom the family called Fat. She was a schoolteacher and a disciplinarian. But Fat's sister Ernestine, who lived nearby, ran a looser household, and Fryer preferred to hang out there...At the same time, Lacey and Ernestine and some of their children were running one of the biggest crack gangs in the area. They would drive down to Miami to buy cocaine and then turn it into crack in their kitchen. ... The family processed and sold as much as two kilograms of cocaine a week. [read full article [NYT reg. req.]]