Chris Hayes believes that the United States has a Colony living in the borders of a Nation, which is another way of saying that some of us are treated markedly different than others. This is essentially a book about policing and imprisonment practices in the U.S. It draws from the heritage of books like The New Jim Crow and Ghettoside.
Hayes has a strong way with words, and experiences beyond his work at MSNBC to draw from. He grew up in the northwest part of the Bronx, and is the son of a community organizer. His studies took him into the world of nonprofits, as well as journalists. Plus in my humble estimation, he’s a thinker. And of course, he has on the ground reporting background from West Baltimore and Ferguson.
Learning more about the politics of policing and mass incarceration has given me insight into the phenomenon called white rage, which pundits say has been a driving factor in the 2016 electoral results. In fact, I highlighted fully 9% of the book. The limit from the publisher is 10%! Here are a few passages that struck me.
“America imprisons a higher percentage of its citizens than any other country, free or unfree, anywhere in the world, except the tiny archipelago of Seychelles.” ebook pg. 22
Hayes takes the statistics of mass incarceration and places them in new contexts that will hopefully make his readers think twice.
“And really who—black or white—can be against order? Who can stand against tranquility? Part of the genius of the rhetoric of law and order is that as a principle (rather than a practice), it can be sold as the ultimate call for equality: We all deserve the law. We all deserve order. All lives matter.” ebook pg. 29
This passage refers to the beginnings of “law and order” policing as a variation on the message of Jim Crow laws, which was started during Richard Nixon’s campaign for President. Hayes walks us through the various rhetoric and practical uses of law and order through the decades. While the topic has the potential to be a bit dry, it’s not. It’s thought-provoking and sometimes even jaw-dropping.
Hayes compares and contrasts the methods of the United States and various European countries. No matter how depressing, this wasn’t news to me. What’s more eye-opening is the comparison of policing in the urban ghettos with that on the typical four-year college campus.
The former population is primarily black and brown, with the latter being primarily white. And when the same drug-related infractions are committed, the policies and punishments are polar opposites. When an entire weekend on a college campus (the Nation) is wild bacchanalia we call it a home football game. The community tolerates the college kids, and typically arrests are few. When three days of crazy behavior ensues in an urban area (the Colony) we call it rioting. The news media arrives, the SWAT teams throw tear gas, and jails start to overflow. Quite a comparison between the Colony and the Nation.
Essentially Hayes spends 250 pages brilliantly calling out politicians, police forces, and to a smaller extent prosecutors on the racial differences in application of the law. Having just finished Michelle Alexander’s book, this was the perfect update on the last few years’ events. Highly recommend both books!