Barack Obama

Truthiness on Young Black Males in Prison Cells vs. College Dorms

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The Washington Post Fact Checker column is an invaluable source on the truthiness of campaign rhetoric. Democratic presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John Edwards made headlines earlier this year with claims about the number of young black men in prison. As the Post Fact Checker recalls:

"The idea that we can keep incarcerating and keep incarcerating—pretty soon we're not going to have a young African-American male population in America. They're all going to be in prison or dead. One of the two."
–John Edwards, MTV political forum, September 27, 2007

"We have more work to do when more young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities across America."
–Barrack Obama, NAACP forum, July 12, 2007.

According to the Fact Checker, these claims just ain't so. On Obama's college/prison claim:

According to 2005 Census Bureau statistics, the male African-American population of the United States aged between 18 and 24 numbered 1,896,000. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 106,000 African-Americans in this age group were in federal or state prisons at the end of 2005. See table 10 of this report. If you add the numbers in local jail (measured in mid-2006), you arrive at a grand total of 193,000 incarcerated young Black males, or slightly over 10 percent.

According to the same census data, 530,000 of these African-American males, or twenty eight percent, were enrolled in colleges or universities (including two-year-colleges) in 2005. That is five times the number of young black men in federal and state prisons and two and a half times the total number incarcerated. If you expanded the age group to include African-American males up to thirty or thirty five, the college attendees would still outnumber the prisoners.

On Edwards' claim that young black males will become an extinct population:

The problem, however, is that he made no effort to define his terms. He claimed that the "young African-American male population" is threatened with extinction. It is hardly the first time he has made such wild generalizations. In a March 2006 speech, Edwards made the following, equally sweeping and equally erroneous, statement: "Young African American men see their options as going to prison or dying. As a result, they don't invest in their education, they don't invest in their futures and when they father children, they don't support them."

Whew! If his fellow North Carolinian Jesse Helms had come up with a claim like that, he would never have been allowed to forget it.

As for violent deaths, we asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a list of the ten leading causes of death for black males, aged 18 to 24, in 2004. The top three causes of death in this age group were (1) homicide (2,140 deaths), unintentional injury (948 deaths), and suicide (332 deaths). Deaths from HIV AIDS ranked sixth (67 deaths.) If we add the homicide, suicide, and HIV deaths together, we get 2,539 deaths. That is a combined death rate from violent causes or AIDS of around 0.13 percent for this segment of the population. Hardly an epidemic.

As the Post Fact Checker notes, the situation is bad enough for young black men that it doesn't need to be exaggerated. One solution goes largely unmentioned by Obama and Edwards–if they really want to keep a lot of young black men (and others) out of prison, end the idiotic Drug War. According to Drug War Facts:

Of the 250,900 state prison inmates serving time for drug offenses in 2004, 133,100 (53.05%) were black, 50,100 (19.97%) were Hispanic, and 64,800 (25.83%) were white.

Whole excellent Post Fact Checker article here.

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  1. Wasn’t the original news release on institutional living and thus that more young african american males lived in prison than in college dorms? Obama and Edwards may have morphed that into “go to college.” If most of the black college males live off campus, which I bet is true, then that stat is probably correct.

  2. Facts are stubborn things, aren’t they? Will this cause the rhetoric from the left to be more in line with reality? Take a wild guess.

  3. That’s a slight relief to know that there are still more black men attending college than in prison. That it’s not patently ludicrous is a problem in and of itself.

    And to be fair, even with my basic hatred of Clemson students and trial lawyers, I can’t really fault Edwards on the extinction remark. That was clear hyperbole. It’s not like he claimed to have research stating that the black male population would be gone by 2025 or something.

    Nonetheless, ending the drug war would pretty much render both questions absurd.

  4. Hey, if Obama can claim that he’s black, he’s certainly can make up his own “facts” regarding imprisonment rates vs. college enrollment.

  5. What would be the civil rights establisment response if the David Dukes of the world used fabricated stats like Edwards and Obama to support a claim the African Americans are criminally inclined, not interested in education, etc.? I am not claiming that rascism doesn’t affect the discrepencies in incarceration between blacks and other races. The evidence obviously indicates that is a fact. I am suggesting that facts, not rhetoric, should drive the debae. This is not a novel concept. We all know about the boy who cried wolf.

  6. The basis of this information is about black males within the prison/corrections system, including those incarcerated, on parole, or on probation. And the claim that there are more young black males within the corrections system than in college is…oh, what’s that word again?

    Oh, yeah, TRUE.

    But hey…how ’bout them lying Democrats, huh? Obama just made this up out of whole cloth, because that’s when them people do.

  7. …if they really want to keep a lot of young black men (and others) out of prison, end the idiotic Drug War.

    Ah but sure, isn’t one of the major reasons the drug war is so popular among politicians the fact that so many white voters want the damn n—–s sent back to their plantations and kept there this time?

  8. Joe, read Obama’s quote again. He mentioned young black men in prison. That isn’t the same as on parole or on probation.

  9. Expanding the age group to 30 is nice, but starting the age group at 18 seems laughable.

  10. And the claim that there are more young black males within the corrections system than in college is…oh, what’s that word again?

    Oh, yeah, TRUE.

    And the facts to support this assertion can be found where?

  11. We have more work to do when more young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities across America.”

    Yeah, let’s read between the lines (BIG FUCKING TIME) to get “on parole, or on probation.”

  12. “more young african american males lived in prison than in college dorms”

    That was how I originally heard this particular riff. Looks like they expanded it beyond it’s usefulness, especially with the rise of worthless “universities” like UofPhoenix, Widener, Keiser, etc.

  13. Expanding the age group to 30 is nice, but starting the age group at 18 seems laughable.

    Why? Don’t most kids start college at 18?

  14. Matt J: When “languishing in prisons” is changed to “in the corrections system” it becomes true. There’s a huge difference there.

  15. Yes, but they “enter the corrections system” before 18.

  16. Joe- the oft-repeated claim is “more black men are in prison than in college,” not “in the correctional system.” You’ve heard it, and I’ve heard it.

    That being said, I’d like to know what it is on which you base your claim about the correctional system as a whole. It’s not that the claim isn’t plausible; I’d just like to see the evidence.

  17. Matt J: When “languishing in prisons” is changed to “in the corrections system” it becomes true. There’s a huge difference there.

    I’m not denying the assertion, I would just like to see the numbers that support it. How many black men of college age are in the corrections system?

    Yes, but they “enter the corrections system” before 18.

    The question is are there more young black men in prison or in college. I’m no statistician, but it seems obvious that you would start measuring at the age most young men enter college.

  18. I don’t know if it changes the thrust of the argument much if you substitute ‘in the correctional system’ for ‘in prison’. Neither is good.

    If they want to use this to end imbalanced sentencing, more power to ’em.

    If they want to use it to create more transfer payments, this sort of vile exaggeration can’t be allowed to stand!

  19. Joe- the oft-repeated claim is “more black men are in prison than in college,” not “in the correctional system.” You’ve heard it, and I’ve heard it.

    Yes, but you’re missing the forest for the trees by pointing this out.

    If we add the homicide, suicide, and HIV deaths together, we get 2,539 deaths. That is a combined death rate from violent causes or AIDS of around 0.13 percent for this segment of the population. Hardly an epidemic.

    Check my math, but wouldn’t that mean there were 3.3 million black males between 18-24 in America? Doesn’t quite seem right.

  20. “We have more work to do when more young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities across America.”
    –Barrack Obama, NAACP forum, July 12, 2007.

    And that clain would be…oh, what’s that word again?

    Oh, yeah, FALSE.

    Cue Joe Friday, Just the facts, sir.

  21. Check my math

    Checked.

    Wrong.

  22. Check my math, but wouldn’t that mean there were 3.3 million black males between 18-24 in America? Doesn’t quite seem right.

    Well if I did the math right, it’s around 2.2 million. Sounds about right to me.

  23. Democrats distorting facts to scare folks into action is perfectly acceptable to liberals. See Al Gore and GW.

    Likewise, Republicans doing the same is fine with conservatives. See GWB and the Iraq War.

    Don’t expect joe or John to admit to hyperbole from their respective camps.

  24. That being said, I’d like to know what it is on which you base your claim about the correctional system as a whole. It’s not that the claim isn’t plausible; I’d just like to see the evidence.

    I don’t have time. Look it up yourself.

  25. You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of young black men in the criminal justice system (jail plus parole plus probation plus whatever else) is comparable to the number of young black men attending college. That would be a shameful fact (if true, I haven’t checked the stats). And if that point is true, getting the numbers wrong will do nothing to help bring about greater consideration of the problem.

    There’s nothing worse than an important point being undermined by sloppiness.

  26. Joe-I’d be missing the forest for the trees if I tried to claim that the ratio of black men in the correctional system vs. college was not troubling. I’m not claiming that; it is troubling. I’m simply suggesting that people making those claims ought to speak more carefully.

  27. Don’t you guys know by now that every thing joe says is true untill proven false and even then its still true.
    Furthermore, no claim made by or supported by joe needs to have any plausible or verifiable evidence.
    And lastly, joe may not be right all the time but he is never wrong.

  28. Okay,
    To summarize some of the dribble I’ve read so far…So the way it works is that campaigning politicians use hyperbolic language and fudge facts to describe a real and pressing problem in the US. If you can prove that they have fudged their data with a Clintonian parsing, the problem disappears. Not only that, but anyone here on out that tries to bring up said problem, is inventing that shit out of whole cloth. Oh, and this sort of fudging data is something that specifically characterizes only what the political Left does in this country.

    Pretty pathetic performance. This must be the end-of-the-season-already-clinched-a-post-season-berth squad of H & R posters on the field right now. Can we at least get a few of the starters to pinch hit dissemble a bit more skillfully in this case? You know, make the red herring twitch with a bit more life?

    Sorry for the baseball stuff…but I’ve got some serious BoSox fever here.

  29. Democrats distorting facts to scare folks into action is perfectly acceptable to liberals. Likewise, Republicans doing the same is fine with conservatives.

    Yep, gotta keep an eye on all of ’em. Lying, fact distorting, politicians should be apologetically groveling when called out on it. They aren’t, and the partisan electorate will give their side a free pass every time. This doesn’t reflect well on the American people.

  30. The fact that there are more black males in “the correction system” than in college is the fault of the black males and no one else’s. Let’s not make them the victims here.

  31. To summarize some of the dribble I’ve read so far…So the way it works is that campaigning politicians use hyperbolic language and fudge facts to describe a real and pressing problem in the US. If you can prove that they have fudged their data with a Clintonian parsing, the problem disappears. Not only that, but anyone here on out that tries to bring up said problem, is inventing that shit out of whole cloth. Oh, and this sort of fudging data is something that specifically characterizes only what the political Left does in this country.

    THat’s kinda how I felt after reading the posts.

    OH NO A POLITICIAN USED HYPERBOLE OR INEXACT WORDS WHEN DESCRIBING A REAL PROBLEM — IGNORE HIM AND THE PROBLEM!!!!

  32. Sorry, it seems that the posts got better while I was writing mine.

    I don’t know if I will ever be in Obama or Edward’s camp, but I can say that of course they are sloppy fudgers of data. And yes it hurts the overall argument. But I would expect more people to not lose sight of the problem so easily.

  33. The fact that there are more black males in “the correction system” than in college is the fault of the black males and no one else’s. Let’s not make them the victims here.

    Yes, because it’s a proven fact that the justice system treats everyone exactly the same regardless of race or any other factors.

    It’s your own fault if the cops arrest you for having a joint but your white buddies get let go with mere confiscation and a warning.

  34. “The idea that we can keep incarcerating and keep incarcerating — pretty soon we’re not going to have a young African-American male population in America. They’re all going to be in prison or dead. One of the two.”

    I think this is a horrible idea. Shame on Edwards for even suggesting it. And the way he was rubbing his hands together and smiling while he said made it even worse. Makes me ashamed to be white.

  35. There’s nothing worse than an important point being undermined by sloppiness.

    Yeah Thoreau, Like you take pains for accuracy in your profession or something! 😉

  36. o the way it works is that campaigning politicians use hyperbolic language and fudge facts to describe a real and pressing problem in the US. If you can prove that they have fudged their data with a Clintonian parsing, the problem disappears. Not only that, but anyone here on out that tries to bring up said problem, is inventing that shit out of whole cloth. Oh, and this sort of fudging data is something that specifically characterizes only what the political Left does in this country.

    No. No one said that, and no one implied that. In fact, several people have gone out of their way to acknowledge the problem. Whether it’s because of sloppy reading or sloppy thinking, you’ve written a complete non-sequitur.

  37. “The fact that there are more black males in “the correction system” than in college is the fault of the black males and no one else’s. Let’s not make them the victims here.”

    This is a pretty good one, I’ll admit.

    Drug War laws and the way they are selectively enforced are specifically rigged to catch more young black males than white males in their nets. They are patently racist. See penalties for rock versus powder for just one example. I don’t have time go chasing that one down for you NAL, but nice try.

  38. For clarity: NAL’s expression of a silly, and probably racist idea does not reflect the majority view here.

  39. It’s pretty clear that Obama was referring to a ballyhooed Justice Policy Institute study released in 2002 that stated that there were more black men in prison than in college. There were rumblings about the methodology, etc. on the original study; I don’t recall whether it was debunked or not.

    Here is a contemporaneous article from stopthedrugwar.

    Possibly he was referring to this recent NYT article which states there are more black men in prison than in college dorms (but that more black men are in college than in prison).

  40. I was able to find some Department of Justice data on this subject. The last year they had available was 1998. In that year, 616000 blacks were in prison, 732,000 blacks were on probation, and 290,000 blacks were on parole. In other words, the total number of blacks “in the corrections system” was about 2 1/2 times the number actually incarcerated.

    I don’t know how this translates to “young” blacks, but if the proportions remain the same [a very dicey assumption] and if you use the larger “young” group then the total number of “young” blacks in the corrections system may in fact exceed the number in college.

  41. Number 6,
    My first post was intended to be a kick in the ass. The early posts by J sub D, John David, and Lamar were pretty dismissive of the problem early on in this thread.

    If I remember correctly, The Sentencing Project has some pretty good stuff on the overall numbers and percentages of black males who have been through the penal system. And just to head off the argument that goes something like “so he was in jail before, but he’s out now” lets not pretend that one is not confronted with far fewer opportunities once one has done time. Let’s not even get started about the permanent disenfranchisement that is still practiced in so many states vis-a-vis felons.

    This issue is a monster. It also seems like it would be a huge one for Libertarians. The dismissive tone comes as a bit of a shock to me. Shouldn’t the fudging of data start an interesting debate among libertarians instead of stop it in its tracks?

  42. Drug War laws and the way they are selectively enforced are specifically rigged to catch more young black males than white males in their nets. They are patently racist. See penalties for rock versus powder for just one example. I don’t have time go chasing that one down for you NAL, but nice try.

    Nice try? Is this a Libertarian blog or did I somehow point my browser to a left-wing bleeding heart website? Whatever happened to personal responsibility? People can cry “Racism in the justice system!” all they want to, but it comes down to, “if you do the crime, you do the time.”

  43. o the way it works is that campaigning politicians use hyperbolic language and fudge facts to describe a real and pressing problem in the US.

    Hyperbolic language and fudged facts got us into Iraq. But hey – that’s just politicians being politicians. Little scamps.

    If you can prove that they have fudged their data with a Clintonian parsing, the problem disappears.

    If numbers support that their assertion is a false one then yes – the problem as they’ve defined it disappears.

    Not only that, but anyone here on out that tries to bring up said problem, is inventing that shit out of whole cloth.

    Doesn’t mean that there isn’t a real problem. It just means that the real problem makes for a less dramatic sound bite.

    Oh, and this sort of fudging data is something that specifically characterizes only what the political Left does in this country.

    Nope. It specifically characterizes what politicians do. See the divorce story for the political Right version of this compulsion.

  44. …and if there is racism in the justice system, maybe that’s even more reason not to do the crime.

  45. The WOD issue aside, this seems like more of a sociological issue than a political one. Sure, there are certainly some blacks in prison who are there or got enhanced sentences because of racism, but I seriously doubt that the majority didn’t commit the crimes of which they were convicted (or worse–lots and lots of plea bargains in our system). The disproportionate presence of black males in prison is a serious problem, but even black leaders have acknowledged that you can’t pin the whole thing on the Man.

  46. OK, if the problem is that black dudes go to jail for smoking the reefer or get longer sentences for possession of crack, I have a novel solution:

    Put down the crack pipe, idiot!

    What % of the people in jail have been wrongly convicted? Less than 1%, I’d wager. Don’t break the law and you won’t go to jail. There, I’ve solved the whole problem.

  47. Is this a Libertarian blog or did I somehow point my browser to a left-wing bleeding heart website?

    yeah it’s a bleeding heart website cause you know there’s nothing less libertarian than asserting people who use drugs and engage in commerce with said drugs are victims of a pointless criminal justice system; actually that’s not true – the real sin here is suggesting there are also racial and socio-economic overtones to the issue that makes an existing injustice worse, especially for a certain segment of the population.

    you can recognize these things AND whack obama and edwards for sloppy emotionalism in an issue where sloppiness will not help a damn fucking thing…that’s why i have a subscription to reason for the next 30 years.

  48. There, I’ve solved the whole problem.

    yeah you totally fixed it! congratulations! you’ve taken a complicated, multi-layered issue and fixed it with a single sentence!

    what are you some kind of fucking democrat?

  49. Matt,
    I would have to put most aspects of the Iraq war justification under the category of total bullshit, those weren’t just a bunch of marginal fudgings.

    Obama’s assertion wasn’t false, it was exaggerated at the margins. Shame on him.

    NAL,
    So I’ll add fairness in sentencing to my list of stupid things that make bleeding leftists cry.

  50. There, I’ve solved the whole problem.

    Suddenly, I miss Dan T.

  51. Okay,
    Ralphy and NAL must be a comic duo. I think I’ve been had. Good work guys. You can stop now.

  52. make that “lack of fairness in sentencing”

  53. Pinko, sorry if I wasn’t clear enough. Of course there’s a problem. Throwing incorrect stats around doesn’t do a damned thing for your cause among thinking people. That is my point. Obama’s statement is indicative of either a disregard for the truth, or half assed research. I desire neither trait in a President.

  54. For clarity: NAL’s expression of a silly, and probably racist idea does not reflect the majority view here.

    Ah, yes. When all else fails, cry “Racism!”

  55. jtuf,

    jtuf | October 3, 2007, 10:08am | #

    Joe, read Obama’s quote again. He mentioned young black men in prison. That isn’t the same as on parole or on probation.

    Nor is it the same thing as making up a myth.

    Obama spoke imprecisely, using “in prison” to mean “in the corrections system.” Sort of like people who say there are 160,000 American troops fighting in Iraq. No, there aren’t – a good number of them are not fighting.

    Now, what do you think is the important part here – that there are more young black males in the corrections system than in college, or that a politician used hyperbolic language for effect?

  56. I wonder if there is still time for the ‘candidates’ to tell their stories at the National Storytelling festival. http://www.americaslibrary.gov/cgi-bin/page.cgi/es/tn/stories_1
    It would seem to me that at lesat one of them would be a winner at that if they can’t get elected.

    If truthfulness was a commodity these people would be to broke to buy any IMHO.

  57. Conservatarians will even defend the drug war if it helps them bash a Democrat.

  58. or that a politician used hyperbolic language for effect?

    Nothing worse than having a lier take your side in an argument.

  59. Obama’s assertion wasn’t false, it was exaggerated at the margins.

    Pinko, we must use different dictionaries. And yes, I’ll happily slam a republican for similar B/S. You don’t solve problems using incorrect data.

  60. I would have to put most aspects of the Iraq war justification under the category of total bullshit, those weren’t just a bunch of marginal fudgings.

    One man’s bullshit is another man’s marginal fudgings.

  61. It’s great that these two political titans have recognized a problem that libertarians have been talking about for years, and not just concerning young black males. Sadly, neither seems to want to address the real problem, which is the nation’s onerous drug laws. Until they do that, nothing will change.

    What’s going on here is merely their efforts to shore up minority support without proposing anything specific to address the problem, other than perhaps more gov’t set-asides that will give the apprearacne of doing something while not changing the underlying structual problems, aka the drug laws.

    Neither side wants to move against the drug laws lest they be accused of being “soft on crime” by their opponents. In the mean time, hundreds of thousands of people each year will be introduced to the meat grinder, aka the justice system, for doing things that are morally no different than buying, selling or consuming alcoholic beverages.


  62. Now, what do you think is the important part here – that there are more young black males in the corrections system than in college, or that a politician used hyperbolic language for effect?

    the problem is that, in this case, hyperbolic language allows critics to readily dismiss the real issue; especially when it could be fixed by changing “in prison” to “in the corrections system.”

  63. 530,000 isn’t five times 193,000, it’s about 2.8 times.

  64. the problem is that, in this case, hyperbolic language allows critics to readily dismiss the real issue; especially when it could be fixed by changing “in prison” to “in the corrections system.”

    Exactly.

    joe, it may not be entirely fair that this linguistic slip is being harped on (and I’ll agree, “in prison” vs. “in the corrections system” is a fairly small slip), but imprecision is imprecision, and leaving some low-hanging fruit for the opposition does no good service to one’s cause.

    By defending the slip rather than acknowledging it, lamenting it, and then moving on to the bigger issue, you allow the other side to portray you as being fast and loose with the facts. That isn’t entirely fair either, but you left the low-hanging fruit for them, so what do you expect?

  65. Obama spoke imprecisely, using “in prison” to mean “in the corrections system.”

    Now you read minds? He said what he said so his assertion is fair game for fact checking.

    When a Republican candidate asserts that illegal aliens commit more crimes or that the growing divorce rate is a sign of our moral decay I hold them to the same standard.

    Right or Left have your facts straight.

  66. Point taken, thoreau and dhex.

    Now, why are you going out of your way to help them?

    You could have posted about the drug war, the size of America’s prison population, or the racial disparities in how the drug war is fought.

    Instead, you decided to quibble about imprecision of the language of someone who actually is talking about those things.

  67. What Randy said!

  68. Now, why are you going out of your way to help them?

    I’m not, joe. I’m trying to help you avoid pitfalls.

    As to why I’m not commenting on the bigger issue? Well, once the thread is jacked the thread is jacked.

  69. If the leading Democrats were truly concerned about the number of black men in prison, they’d talk about ending the drug war.

  70. Hey, I got post #69. Cool!

  71. Is this a Libertarian blog or did I somehow point my browser to a left-wing bleeding heart website?

    NAL

    Both are correct

    Are you new here?

  72. thoreau,

    Actually you’re #70. Precision is important!

  73. If the leading Democrats were truly concerned about the number of black men in prison, they’d talk about ending the drug war.

    Yup

  74. Politician on the campaign makes wild exaggeration. Film at 11.

  75. Nope. Cesar was #70. I posted #71 to observe that the comment before Cesar’s (also mine) was #69.

  76. If conservatarians were really concerned about the drug war and black men in prison, they’d talk about the drug war.

  77. A 1992 political newsletter by former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, included portrayals of African-Americans as inclined toward crime and lacking sense about political issues, the Houston Chronicle reported Thursday. Paul, a former Libertarian Party presidential candidate who defeated Democratic-turned-Republican Rep. Greg Laughlin in the March primary, in November will face Democratic attorney Charles (Lefty) Morris, whose campaign is distributing Paul’s writings. Under the headline “Terrorist Update,” Paul reported on gang crime in Los Angeles and wrote, “If you have ever been robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be.” About blacks in Washington, D.C., Paul wrote, “I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.” Paul said Wednesday that his comments came in the context of “current events and statistical reports of the time,” and that he opposes racism.

    In later newsletters, Paul wrote that lobbying groups who seek special favors are evil, and that “by far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government.”

  78. SIV and Cesar,
    They’ve tried. The last two presidents who thought they’d give that a shot, Clinton and Carter, were absolutely pilloried for making such noises. They were pilloried by Republicans first, and then they were mercilessly pilloried by members of their own party because it was an effective political truncheon to use…the soft on crime meme. The problem is that this is a virus that infects our whole culture. Too many Americans are attracted to both the daddy state and the nanny state.

    Why is it that Dems should be more willing to commit political suicide than Republicans?

  79. “We have more work to do when more young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities across America.”
    –Barrack Obama, NAACP forum, July 12, 2007.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong or false about this statement. No where here does Obama claim a bigger young black male population anywhere. There are no purported facts about any population to be checked.

  80. There are no purported facts about any population to be checked.

    Are you illiterate? The claim is clearly

    number of young black men languishing in prison > number of young black men attending colleges and universities across America

  81. The problem, however, is that [John Edwards] made no effort to define his terms [as to what Young Black Population means].

    What of it? It’s for the children… isn’t it?

  82. I have heard the anecdote before that a black male has a better chance of going to jail than going to college. I’m not vouching for its accuracy but perhaps they heard that too and were botching it? I don’t think they were making that up.

  83. If conservatarians were really concerned about the drug war and black men in prison, they’d talk about the drug war.

    All the time? Or just instead of attacking your pet candidate?

    And what the hell is a conservatarian? Is that just someone that you don’t like?

  84. It’s all about building a sense of urgency. When truth isn’t enough, truthiness takes over.

  85. So, since technically Obama’s statement isn’t true (yet) it means we DON’T have any more work to do? He’s saying basically nothing.

  86. There are no purported facts about any population to be checked.
    Are you illiterate? The claim is clearly…

    Speaking of speaking precisely, ablejack was right – Obama’s statement is conditional:
    “We have more work to do when more young black men languish…”
    “We have more work to do when rivers overflow their banks.”

    He’s saying basically nothing. = he’s a politician.

    Here’s an interesting factoid (2004):
    “While it is true that African Americans have a higher college enrollment rate (6.8% total AA pop) than incarceration rate (2.7% total AA pop), they are also more likely than the general population to be enrolled in college (6.1% total pop) and more likely than a white person to be enrolled in college (6.2% total W pop). In fact there is only one other group more likely to be enrolled in college (Asians at 12.8%). I wonder if some reporter is going to catch Kerry in this fib and ask him about those other stats that show blacks are doing very well in America.”

  87. Why is it that Dems should be more willing to commit political suicide than Republicans?

    The Republicans seem to be quite willing to commit political suicide over the Iraq War.

  88. I haven’t read all responses – did anyone else notice that the article cites two reports that plainly do not comport?

    “Of the 250,900 state prison inmates serving time for drug offenses in 2004, 133,100 (53.05%) were black”

    That’s 133,100 in 2004 just for drugs and just in state prison.

    “According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 106,000 African-Americans in this age group were in federal or state prisons at the end of 2005”

    that’s 106,000 in 2005, 21% fewer, counting both state and federal prison and for all offenses.

    Someone call the Office of Pulling Statistics Out of My Ass.

  89. Try this response on for size. People don’t go to jail because they are black, white, Hispanic or Asian. They go to jail because they are criminals. People don’t flunk out of college because of their race or religion–they just aren’t smart enough to pass. People don’t sell drugs because they are black, white, etc…they sell drugs because they want to make a quick and easy dollar instead of working. People don’t kill other people because of their ethnic or religious background–they kill people because they hate them, or just simply because they are evil. The most evil people in history are mostly Caucasian. Hitler, Jeffrey Dahlmer, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Son of Sam, Mussolini, John Wayne Gacy–all were white people. Sin and depravition knows no skin color. Now, name some great people that were not pure white. George Washington Carver, Martin Luther King, Confucious, Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth (a pure Jew), Mohammed, Bishop Tutu, Ghandi. I could go on, but I think I made my point. Skin color, ancestors, bloodline, religion–have no bearing on whether a person will be an asset to society or a detriment. Please quit saying that just because you are black that you are doomed to be a criminal or a college dropout. Please quit saying that because you are white you will be the next leader of the free world. Take responsibility for your own life, and do your best. History will take care of the rest.

  90. Speaking of speaking precisely, ablejack was right – Obama’s statement is conditional:
    “We have more work to do when more young black men languish…”
    “We have more work to do when rivers overflow their banks.”

    Only if the “when” Obama is referring to does not mean “now”, which it clearly does. He’s not just saying “IF (young black men in prison > college) THEN (we would have work to do)”, he means “we do now have work to do because (prison > college)”. The condition is fulfilled. If it’s speculation about some state that might exist in the future, why even say it?

  91. And when I said “The condition is fulfilled,” I mean Obama’s claim is that the condition is fulfilled — I am not speaking to whether it is in reality.

  92. Look out – this thread has been posted on Fark.com

  93. ” People don’t sell drugs because they are black, white, etc…they sell drugs because they want to make a quick and easy dollar instead of working.”

    The dollars may be quick, but not very easy. Cocaine and crack users keep some weird hours, other people are always trying to rip you off or sell in your turf and the cops are always looking to lock you up. Not a job with a lot of potential for career development, unless you rise to kingpin through a stroke of luck and hard work.

    SLOT, IMHO, typical pot dealers are as close to free market businessmen as you can have in this economy, no wonder pot’s still illegal.

  94. The dollars may be quick, but not very easy.

    I’m not sure what it means to say the dollars are “quick”, but there sure aren’t that many of them. Other than those at the top, no one in the inner city crack/heroin business is making much, especially relative to the hazards — just like pretty much any instance of organized crime. Doesn’t anyone watch The Wire? Wasn’t there a whole chapter on this in Freakonomics that said it’s sub-minimum wage when calculated hourly? Only benefit is it’s cash under the table.

    Now, a middling college town pot dealer with less (though nonzero) risk of arrest or violence from competitors, yeah, I’ve known a few who did quite alright.

  95. There is no political suicide for the major political parties. Only eternal existence.

  96. If you include all African-American men who are “in the system” i.e. parole, probation, etc, then you have to compare it to all African-American men who have received a degree. Just as those who have been to prison still feel the affects afterward, so to do those who possess a degree feel the effect.

  97. If you are on probation or parole, you are not “feeling the affects afterward.” You are still experiencing the thing itself.

    The proper comparison to “all African-American men who have recieved a degree” would be “all African-American men who were ever in imprisoned, on parole, or on probation.”

  98. Don’t taze me, Bro!

    About this drug war then, “Conservatarians will even defend the drug war if it helps them bash a Democrat”, what, exactly, needs defending?

    Drugs = bad, drugs = illegal.

    So what’s wrong with a war against them?

    Besides that, both Democrat candidates that the article “bashed” mentioned nothing about the drug war. In other words, they aren’t against it. So to suggest that Conservatarianimistians would “defend the drug war” in order to bash Democrats leaves out the fact that democrats themselves don’t seem to against it.

    What kind of twisted logic is that, exactly?

  99. see this is for the whole population of America. so he is speaking in general. but in l.A for e.g their have been 21 new prisons built in the last 21 years, compared to 1 college

  100. Naturally, it was Edwards and Obama speaking, what else but stupidity could you ever expect?

  101. Hm, let’s round the number up to say there are 2 million young black men in the U.S. If we assume 300 million Americans, that’s .66% of the population. How in the world does .66% of the population get to dominate popular culture the way black men seem to do? One can hardly turn on the radio or TV without thinking they make up much more of the population than their influence would seem to indicate.

  102. I say that if we put Barak Obama and John Edwards in a crowded cell full of black men, that both of them would soon be wearing rubber mini skirts and getting bum blasted by those poor, troubled, downtrodden dregs. I am starting to cry, due to the sadness of all of this.

  103. This is not a political problem. This is a community problem. Stop playing victim here. Nobody is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to do drugs. If you have a time, go to library and reed something, but if your choice is to hang out on the street late at night, well it is still your choice. Look, my family immigrated into USA 15 years ago and for 8 years we lived at Newark, NJ, and guess what, me and my brother choose to get ahead. Instead of playing outside, we choose to study hard; we went to prestigious college, we finish it and now both of us making more money than average person in USA. Why you ask, because we CHOOSE not to play victim and blame everything on someone else. Because we CHOOSE to study hard and get full scholarship to collage due to our good grades and high SAT score.
    Because we choose to obey LAW. So stop making excuses and start see this problem for what it is.

  104. Um, yes while what Obama said is technically not true, you can see this right on the BJS homepage:

    http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/prisons.htm

    “At yearend 2005 there were 3,145 black male sentenced prison inmates per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to 1,244 Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males and 471 white male inmates per 100,000 white males.”

    So, to repeat – Black males are in jail at a ratio of about 7:1 compared to white males. Does anyone think that there ISN’T some systemic problem behind that figure?

    So everyone can gloat about catching the ‘truth’ behind his comment, but it doesn’t do one thing about trying to figure out how to integrate more of our society into you know.. our society?

  105. Expanding the age group to 30 is nice, but starting the age group at 18 seems laughable.

    Wouldn’t the honest thing to do be to compare the number of people in college during the college years (say, 18 – 23) with the number in prison during the same period?

    Or, if you want a wider age cohort, compare the number who are attending or have attended college with the number in prison.

    Anything else looks like cooking the numbers to me.

    Black males are in jail at a ratio of about 7:1 compared to white males. Does anyone think that there ISN’T some systemic problem behind that figure?

    Totally agree, but the question is, where does the problem lie? How much is attributable to a dysfunctional subculture, and how much to racist whites?

  106. False dilemma, RC.

    Night riders and Bull Connor are not the only way racial injustice can manifest itself.

    Lack of networking opportunities with professionally-successful people, for example – there’s no bigotted bad guy out screwing black people and twirling his mustache, and yet that is going to drive down incomes and drive up crime.

    Political questions are best considered by thinking about systems, not personalities.

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