Asked about what he could do about “inner-city kids partaking in violence” at the MTV/MySpace Forum yesterday, Democratic candidate John Edwards offered an apocalyptic prediction for young black males:
“We cannot build enough prisons to solve this problem. And 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.”
Hyperbole much? Despite popular misperception and those who find it a convenient talking point to illustrate inescapable racism, there are more young African-American men in college than in prison. In 2005, according to the Census Bureau, there were 864,000 black men in college. According to Justice Department statistics, there were 802,000 in federal and state prisons and jails; between the ages of 18 and 24, however, black men in college outnumber those incarcerated by 4 to 1.
UPDATE: Some readers are finding the numbers above confusing. The first set of numbers (comparing 864,000 to 802,000) refers to all black men of all ages. The 4 to 1 ratio is among black men between the ages of 18 to 24. In other words, a large percentage of that 802,000 are black men above the age of 24.