Singer John Legend claimed that there were more black men incarcerated today than there were black slaves in 1850. He’s wrong.
We checked and it’s a misleading statistic designed to push “prison reform.”
“There are more black men incarcerated today than black slaves in 1850. Think about that, let that sink in your mind.” John Legend
— Karem (@zorrodeabajo) February 23, 2015
According to the 1850 Census, there were 3.2 million black slaves (out of a population of 3.6m).
In the 2010 Census there were 39 million blacks (not counting mixed race people). That’s more than 10 times the black slave population.
Roughly 4 million blacks are involved with the prison system today but according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2009 there are fewer than a million currently looked up assuming Obama’s Justice Department hasn’t gone on a mass jailing of black people.
There should actually be more blacks in jail, not fewer if black lives actually matter.
Steve Sailer in a review of Los Angeles Times crime writer Jill Leovy’s Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America makes this point explicitly by quoting her.
At a moment when the conventional wisdom is coalescing around the idea that the big problem with the criminal justice system is white policemen being too mean to black criminals, Leovy drops a bombshell carefully justified by what she learned reporting from 2001 to 2012 on black crime in South Central Los Angeles. She argues the opposite: that white people should work harder to track down and lock up black murderers. Leovy admits:
This is not an easy argument to make in these times. Many critics today complain that the criminal justice system is heavy-handed and unfair to minorities. We hear a great deal about capital punishment, excessively punitive drug laws, supposed misuse of eyewitness evidence, troublingly high rates of black male incarceration, and so forth. So to assert that black Americans suffer from too little application of the law, not too much, seems at odds with common perception. [Emphasis mine].
Nearly every serious study I’ve seen to actually tackle this issue finds that blacks are way disproportionately released, that they usually have lengthy records before they are arrested and finally jailed, and that blacks commit disproportionately more crime than any other ethnic group. There are lots of theories why — cultural, genetic, institutional racism, etc — but the facts remain stubborn things.
Both Leovy and Sailer note that only 38% of murders of black men in Los Angeles County are ever actually cleared by an arrest. This is the real national tragedy.