Commentary: The Cancelled Black Harvard Professor Who Found No Racial Bias in Police Shootings

Roland Fryer Junior
by Kurt Mahlburg


Unless you have lived under a rock for the last four years, you will be very familiar with the claim that black Americans are disproportionately victims of police shootings compared with their white counterparts.

But a nearly eight-year-old study challenging this narrative is enjoying renewed attention thanks to a recent high-profile interview of the study’s author, African American economist Roland Fryer, by journalist Bari Weiss of The Free Press.

Professor Fryer published the controversial findings in 2016 while on the faculty of Harvard University. Regarding police shootings of civilians, the study concluded, “We are unable to detect any racial differences in either the raw data or when accounting for controls.”

While the study did find racial disparities in the use of nonlethal force in police encounters with black Americans, when it came to shootings, Fryer’s results were emphatic. In fact, after controlling for variables, Fryer and his team found that black Americans were slightly less likely to be shot by police than whites, though that difference was not statistically significant.

The finding flatly contradicts the claims by Black Lives Matter and other activist groups that racism drives police officers to use deadly violence against African Americans at far higher rates.

Far from being an obscure academic, Fryer (pictured above), at age 30, became the youngest African American ever awarded tenure at Harvard—and ultimately one of the highest-paid professors at the Ivy League school, with over 50 published papers to his name. In 2008, he was named one of the top eight young economists in the world by The Economist and, in following years, was decorated with several other significant accolades.

Fryer’s remarkable career trajectory began from a place of acute disadvantage. He describes his early years as living in a “drug family.” His mother left when he was young, and his father was a violent alcoholic who ended up being incarcerated for a rape conviction, leaving Fryer to fend for himself. By his teen years, Fryer was starting to live the life of a gangster.

Just as noteworthy as Fryer’s controversial study report are three additional revelations that came out during his interview with Weiss.

First is that Fryer was so surprised by the study’s findings that he didn’t believe them. He hired a new team of research assistants to repeat the study in case the original findings were mistaken, but the new group came to the same conclusion.

Second is that within minutes of Fryer’s publishing of his paper, people began sending him complaints and threats.

“All hell broke loose,” he told Weiss. Rather ironically, he was even forced to hire armed security for a

“I was going to the grocery store to get diapers with the armed guard. It was crazy,” he said. “It was really, truly crazy.”

Third is that the figure behind Fryer’s suspension from Harvard was then-college-dean Claudine Gay. Gay gained national attention during congressional hearings regarding Harvard’s 2023 anti-Semitism furor, and she ultimately resigned as the university’s president some weeks later after being found to have plagiarized numerous works, including her doctoral dissertation.

Gay spearheaded Fryer’s suspension after the professor was accused of making “off-color jokes” and inappropriate comments and retaliating when faced with objections to those jokes and remarks. Fryer has apologized for the jokes but denies he has retailed against anyone.

Speculations continue to surround Fryer’s treatment by Harvard—among them, that his report on racism in police shootings was the real reason he was suspended from Harvard.

“I honestly haven’t thought too hard about that,” Fryer replied, when asked about such a possibility by an audience member.

“I did a lot of things at Harvard people didn’t like,” he said. “I broke a lot of glass. I’m not a company dude. I’m just not. I’m very clear about what my mission is. I am put on this earth to develop the truths about why we’re losing so much talent in disadvantaged neighborhoods around the world. That’s what I’m here for.”

Instead, he said, “I care about the real issues.”

He did, however, joke with Weiss about Claudine Gay and karma.

He teamed up for this interview with Bari Weiss, who has helped launch a new private liberal arts college called the University of Austin, and something tells me this isn’t the last we’ll hear from Professor Roland Fryer.

And that is a very good thing for America.

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Kurt Mahlburg is an emerging Australian voice on culture and the Christian faith. He has a passion for both the philosophical and the personal, drawing on his background as a graduate architect, a primary school teacher, a missionary, and a young adults pastor. Since 2018, Kurt has been the Research and Features Editor at the Canberra Declaration. He is also a freelance writer and a regular contributor at Mercator, the Spectator Australia, Caldron Pool, and Intellectual Takeout. He is married to Angie, who hails from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Photo “Roland Fryer Jr.” by The Aspen Institute. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.




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