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Opinion: Columnists

No, 'large segments' of blacks aren't in prison or on parole

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Education,Gregory Kane,Columnists,Analysis,Martin Luther King,Race and Diversity

I know exactly where I wanted to be 50 years ago yesterday, and exactly where I was.

I was a typical American 11-year-old, ready to head outdoors for a late summer romp just before school started again. But I never made it out the front door.

My Aunt Margaret thought my time would be better spent sitting in front of the TV set, listening to some guy called the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., give a speech.

So I sat; I listened. And when King finished his speech with that rousing "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we're free at last!" I - in all my 11-year-old wisdom - just knew that I'd heard a speech that would be talked about for years.

Well, it has been. And, as each anniversary of the march on Washington has approached, there has been much speculation on what King would have to say about today's America.

That speculation has really been ratcheted up for this 50th anniversary celebration. As usual, the question has been asked.

And, as usual, some of the answers amount to flapdoodle.

Take last Sunday's issue of Parade magazine as an example. The question "What Would Dr. King Say Today?" was put to Stanford University historian Clayborne Carson, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia and Bob Moses, founder and director of the Algebra Project.

In an earlier incarnation Moses was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. That was back in the 1960s. Moses was the mastermind behind the "Mississippi Summer" of 1964.

King, according to Moses, "would argue that education is also a constitutional right."

Oh, is it now?

There is nothing, either in the Bill of Rights or the articles of the Constitution that describe the respective powers of Congress, the president and the Supreme Court, that says education is a constitutional right. There is not one single word. There isn't even so much as a syllable.

But, according to Moses, it's in there. And I know just where Moses found the right. In the "penumbra" of the Constitution.

It was in the "penumbra" of the Constitution that seven Supreme Court justices, back in 1973, found a constitutional "right to privacy."

And they used that right - newly discovered in the just-as-newly discovered "penumbra" - to justify striking down every state anti-abortion law in the nation.

Moses is what I call a "penumbra raider." He raids the "penumbra" of the Constitution and yanks out those rights that please him.

Any rights in the "penumbra" that don't please Moses he just leaves in there.

Carson said King would be "particularly surprised that a half century after a freedom movement overcame the southern Jim Crow system, there are too many African Americans whose freedom is limited by a criminal justice system that incarcerates blacks at a far higher rate than whites for similar offenses.

"It's deeply ironic that a freedom movement has culminated in a situation in which large segments of the black community are imprisoned or on parole and thus still not free in the most fundamental sense."

So Carson is another black liberal from the "we just loves ourselves some black criminals" school. But just how correct is his assertion that "large segments of the black community are imprisoned or on parole"?

According to the NAACP, there are "close to 1 million blacks in prison." We'll go with an even one million.

Since the NAACP has transformed itself into a "we just loves ourselves some black criminals" organization, the one million figure probably better serves the notion that all black folks are victims.

According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, the estimated U.S. population for 2012 is 313,914,040. Some 13.1 percent of that population - 41,122,734 - is black.

So, with one million black folks in prison, that amounts to a whopping 2 percent of the entire black population.

That's Carson's idea of a "large segment" of American blacks. What, indeed, would King say today about such tater-headed notions?

GREGORY KANE, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.

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