One has to wonder how many Black men are in prison simply because white (and Black) people have a tendency to perceive a Black man as a criminal, and more easily so than they perceive white men this way. There's an excellent article at MSNBC exposing this question, and I quote from it here liberally:
PHILADELPHIA - It's an old lie, claiming that The Black Man Did It.
But it was trotted out again last week when a white mother from suburban Philadelphia said two black men snatched her and her 9-year-old daughter from their SUV and abducted them in the trunk of a black Cadillac.
Blacks across the country were outraged after Bonnie Sweeten was found in a luxury hotel at Disney World. Authorities quickly unraveled the hoax, but not before an Amber Alert, frantic searches and national news coverage that played into images of marauding black men.
( . . . )Racial boundaries are slowly dissolving in America, with President Barack Obama the most obvious example. Yet Sweeten's story, plus the killing of a black New York City cop by a white officer days later, was a reminder that old ideas remain burned into many minds both black and white. [Racial boundaries will not completely dissolve until the media and the public acknowledge that "race" does not exist in the first place, and it never did.]
( . . . )
The Black Man Did It lie last made news as recently as October, when a John McCain volunteer claimed a 6-foot-4 black man carved a B into her cheek (For Barack, evidently). Charles Stuart told it in 1989 after he killed his wife in Boston. Susan Smith told it when she drowned her sons in 1994 in South Carolina. Unknown numbers of black men were hanged for it back when lynching was a common practice.
And those are the ones we heard about. Law professor Katheryn Russell-Brown documents 67 racial hoaxes in the period between 1987 and 1996 in her book "The Color of Crime." MSNBC
If white and even many Black people are primed to see Black men as criminals, then how many Black men are in jail simply because the hoaxes were not discovered before their cases went to the (frequently all-white) juries? And how many Black men are in jail longer because when Blacks and whites are convicted for the same crimes, whites are more likely to be perceived as susceptible to change and progress, simply because they are white?
The outrageous number of Black people in prison in the United States is directly related to answers to the above questions.