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A Colony in a Nation Hardcover – March 21, 2017
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“Hayes’s forceful analysis...compel[s] readers to wrestle with some very tough questions about the nature of American democracy and its deep roots in racism, inequality and punishment.””
- Khalil Gibran Muhammad, New York Times Book Review
“A Colony in a Nation reminds us that fear of the other, when weaponized and mechanized by the state, usually makes things worse. That’s a lesson Americans of every color would do well to remember.”
- Eric Liu, Washington Post
“Terrific and really important.”
- Rebecca Traister
“A Colony in a Nation is a highly original analysis of America’s arbitrary and erratic criminal justice system. Indeed, by Hayes's lights, the system is not erratic at all―it treats one group of Americans as citizens, and another as the colonized. This is an essential and ground-breaking text in the effort to understand how American criminal justice went so badly awry.”
- Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me
“A thorough exploration of how the ‘tough on crime’ ideology leaves poor isolated minority populations living under a different set of laws.”
- Patrick Sauer, Esquire
“Hayes doesn’t shy away from exposing bias where he finds it, which makes this passionate and well-researched account a compelling entry in the growing literature of social injustice.”
- Geoff McKenzie, O Magazine
“The first significant theorization on race of the Trump era.... Hayes has a particular talent for examining rather unflinchingly our national ills.”
- Matthew Pulver, Salon
“Hayes is a forceful and eloquent writer…. He offers a clear and useful framework for understanding the current dysfunctions of American society. It’s a brilliant diagnosis, [and] more urgent than ever.”
- Nick Romeo, Christian Science Monitor
“A major book, vital for our survival as a nation.”
- Charles R. Larson, Counterpunch
“An up-to-date (and masterfully interwoven) blend of statistics, history, and analysis.”
- Peter C. Baker, Pacific Standard
“Chris Hayes’ ominous account of what’s ailing America… [offers a] rare view into a wide racial and class cross-section of society.”
- Ryan Cooper, The Week
“This readable and thoughtful work... is especially insightful.”
- William D. Pederson, Library Journal (starred review)
“Writing with clarity, intelligence, and compassion, Hayes deftly illuminates the complex state of affairs that has evolved since the 1960s civil rights protests, and resulted in the current backlash.”
- Carol Haggas, Booklist
“A timely and impassioned argument for social justice.”
“Important, persuasive… [A Colony in a Nation] can help Americans begin to heal.”
- Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Chris Hayes is the Emmy Award–winning host of All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC, the New York Times best-selling author of Twilight of the Elites, and an editor-at-large at The Nation. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, daughter, and son.
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Top customer reviews
“A Colony in a Nation” is an interesting book on social justice. Emmy Award winning news anchor and New York Times best-selling author Chris Hayes provides the public with an interesting analogy that captures and drives his main premise, the terrifying truth that we as a people have created the Colony within our Nation with the purpose of subduing our fellow citizens. This stimulating 256-page book includes six unnamed chapters, notes and a selected bibliography.
1. A well-written, well-researched and succinct book.
2. Hayes makes use of the clever analogy of a colony in a nation to drive home his interesting perspectives on social justice.
3. Many topics revolving around social justice are discussed. “Nearly one out of every four prisoners in the world is an American, though the United States has just 5 percent of the world’s population.”
4. Racism plays a prominent role in this book. “Though Dayvon and I are both Americans, we live in different countries.”
5. Discusses three key things that happened in the 1960s to shape the politics of how and upon whom we enforce law. Find out what they are.
6. The driving forces of politics in America. “This rhetoric and framing would become the template to justify forty years of escalating incarceration: Order is necessary for liberty to flourish. If we do not have order, we can have no other rights.”
7. The most provocative quote in the book, IMHO. “But the terrifying truth is that we as a people have created the Colony through democratic means. We have voted to subdue our fellow citizens; we have rushed to the polls to elect people promising to bar others from enjoying the fruits of liberty. A majority of Americans have put a minority under lock and key.”
8. Interesting historical perspectives. “This great land of ours, this exceptional beacon of liberty, was founded by men who, to borrow a phrase, refused to comply. Who not only resisted lawful orders but rebelled against the government that issued them.”
9. Hayes makes it perfectly clear that in America there are two worlds. “In Ferguson, just about every single black person I spoke to had at least one story (often many) about humiliating traffic stops by Ferguson police officers that had nothing to do with public safety.”
10. A look at enforcement in America. “American society has witnessed a kind of arms race between its citizens and its police, resulting in forces that in many places patrol and occupy rather than police, that straightforwardly view themselves as waging war.”
11. The concept of white fear. One of the best discussed topics of the book. “Despite the fact nonwhite people are disproportionately the victims of crime, the criminal justice system as a whole is disproportionately built on the emotional foundation of white fear.” Bonus quote, “In ways large and small and constant, the Nation exhibits contempt for the lives of its subjects in the Colony and indifference to their value. This is the central component of the white fear that sustains the Colony: the simple inability to recognize, deeply, fully totally, the humanity of those on the other side.”
12. A look at criminology, the concept of “broken windows”. “Despite these caveats, “broken windows” soon became an article of faith among the nation’s law enforcement leaders, chief among them Bill Bratton, who had been hired in 1990 to run the police department of New York’s transit authority.”
13. So is there a broad-based consensus about what “caused” the crime decline? Find out.
14. Hayes periodically makes mention of other great books and highlights their main thesis.
15. The evolution of how to treat drug addicts.
1. Oh so brief, I wanted Hayes to go further in the weeds.
2. No supplementary materials, that is, no charts, diagrams, photos or anything to complement the interesting narrative.
3. Notes are not linked.
4. As is the case of most books of this ilk, the diagnosis is better than the cure. Yes he makes general comments like the reduction of incarceration and the like but doesn’t really provide a thorough analysis of it.
In summary, I really enjoyed this book. Hayes is a gifted communicator and provides some interesting perspectives on what are difficult social topics. The book examines the evolution of our justice system and what’s behind the social divide. Interesting perspectives, memorable and provocative thoughts but all too brief, notes are not linked and doesn’t really go into the solutions of such problems.
Further recommendations: “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, “Smuggler’s Nation” by Peter Andreas, “Rise of the Warrior Cop” by Radley Balko, “Evicted” by Mathew Desmond, “Between The World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, “White Trash” by Nancy Isenberg, “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn, and “Slavery by Another Name“ by Douglas A. Blackmon.
The best parts are when he details the birth of this nation and the longing for decency, honor, freedom, anger and uprisings that led to the USA and our country being separated forever from the Crown -- something almost any American has at least heard before, then flips that around to explain our current day predicament. Imagine being a colonized people where a bunch of strangers from a foreign land popped in only to grab your money and tell you - in increasingly violent ways - what to do, and how happy you should be to be doing it for them before popping back to comfort across the Atlantic where they called you barbaric. This is made pretty plain as both metaphor and reality for people of color living in the US and dealing with a police force in a country that just wants those colonists to settle down, shut up and keep the peace already.
It's not a deep dive, more of a gloss, and thankfully he offers nothing in the way of prescription to "fix it." In fact, he undercuts various prescriptions with statistics and studies that may surprise some. All in all, it's a novel way to think about the problem of policing and race in today's USA, where we've become what we fought against centuries ago.
Along the way we visit Chris Hayes the Cop who Kills for Cinder Block Holding, and Chris Hayes GOP weed smuggler as well as a much younger, less woke Chris Hayes who grew up so scared it's hard to imagine how he's not on Fox rather than MSNBC. I say this with love, as a slightly older white person who lived in Harlem in the 80s and 90s, I was not as terrified as Chris remembers, but then - I didn't have a car and couldn't avoid "seedy places."
Did I mention it's a good metaphor & quick read? Also honest, fumbling, funny at times, educational-ish, worth the read for the comparison to the USA all the way back. Chris Hayes is white. As a white reader, I can only read through my white lens, so I can't speak for everyone. He only touches on a sliver, if a very deadly and upsetting one, of the multidimensional systemic and institutionally-rooted racial issues, but it's a contribution to the thoughts in a fraught arena that's become so politicized that many people will automatically discard the idea of reading this book.
I bet if read with an open mind, most would see a man struggling with issues he's only recently had to think about - and it is very generous of him to let us into his brain for these first trips around the track.