America likes to tell itself that it inhabits a postracial world, yet nearly every empirical measure -- wealth, unemployment, incarceration, school segregation -- reveals that racial inequality has barely improved since 1968, when Richard Nixon became our first "law and order" president. MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes upends our national conversation on policing and democracy in a book of wide-ranging historical, social, and political analysis. Hayes contends our country has fractured in two: the Colony and the Nation. In the Nation, we venerate the law. In the Colony, we obsess over order, fear trumps civil rights, and aggressive policing resembles occupation. How and why did Americans build a system where conditions in Ferguson and West Baltimore mirror those that sparked the American Revolution? A Colony in a Nation examines the surge in crime that began in the 1960s and peaked in the 1990s, and the unprecedented decline that followed. Drawing on close-hand reporting at flashpoints of racial conflict, as well as deeply personal experiences with policing, Hayes explores cultural touchstones, from the influential "broken windows" theory to the "squeegee men" of late-1980s Manhattan, to show how fear causes us to make dangerous and unfortunate choices, both in our society and at the personal level. With great empathy, he seeks to understand the challenges of policing communities haunted by the omnipresent threat of guns. Most important, he shows that a more democratic and sympathetic justice system already exists -- in a place we least suspect.
He also gives us a view of the insidious circle of fear and poverty in which so many are engulfed. The catch 22 so many police officers find themselves in, having to take on more than one role, without sufficient training. The double standard of institutions, such as universites that are allowed to police themselves. There is so much covered in this book and Hayes presents this information clearly and easy to understand. Found this eye opening, and though I have no concrete answers I do believe that things need to change. Where to begin is the big question, especially since most politicians seem not to know how to tackle this overwhelming problem, or don't care to try. Simply maddening and heartbreaking.
Hayes' strongest writing comes in the analogies he uses to explain his ideas. The life for Black Americans in the colony is similar to Colonial Americans who rebelled against British rule. While unjust taxation is often credited with starting the American Revolution, Hayes traces the history of excessive force used by the British in an attempt to stop smuggling and make the Colonials pay tariffs being the real source of division. White fear that drives police officers and white gun owners to shoot Black people without thinking is similar to the siege mentality of early colonists living among Native Americans and slave owners who lived in constant fear that they'd be victims of violence from Native Americans and enslaved Africans. The idea of how community policing may work in comparison with the increasingly militarized and punitive policing in America today is demonstrated by how college campuses are policed. Colleges have a considerable amount of disorder and a high level of law breaking that is tolerated and even encouraged in a way that is opposite of how a poor, urban neighborhood is treating.
This is a well-written and thoughtful book and a good one to read to reflect on current events and how we can change things for the better.