Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

A Colony in a Nation

Rate this book
New York Times best-selling author and Emmy Award–winning news anchor Chris Hayes argues that there are really two Americas: a Colony and a Nation.

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. With the clarity and originality that distinguished his prescient bestseller, Twilight of the Elites, 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. A Colony in a Nation explains how a country founded on justice now looks like something uncomfortably close to a police state. 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.

A Colony in a Nation is an essential book―searing and insightful―that will reframe our thinking about law and order in the years to come.

272 pages, Paperback

First published March 21, 2017

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Christopher L. Hayes

4 books372 followers
Christopher Hayes is Editor at Large of The Nation and host of Up w/ Chris Hayes on MSNBC. From 2010 to 2011, he was a fellow at Harvard University’s Edmond J Safra Foundation Center for Ethics. His essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Time, The American Prospect, The New Republic, The Washington Monthly, and The Guardian. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife Kate and daughter Ryan.

Author photo credit: Sarah Shatz

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
2,378 (37%)
4 stars
2,882 (45%)
3 stars
860 (13%)
2 stars
121 (1%)
1 star
29 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 841 reviews
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.9k followers
February 1, 2020

If you are concerned about criminal justice and policing in America, if you have been enlightened by Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, or moved by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, then Christopher Hayes’ A Colony in a Nation is a book that may both strengthen your knowledge and widen your perspective.

Chris Hayes, the most compassionate and perceptive of MSNBC hosts—not forgetting my first love, Ms. Maddow—is the ideal author for such a book. He is a white man in his late 30’s who long ago learned to “check his privilege,” who for years—first as a writer and editor for The Nation, later as the host of Up and All In—has listened to what people of color have to say about their experience of America. He spent many nights in Ferguson and Baltimore taking in the atmosphere, talking with people on the streets, but never forgetting the great gulf of history and privilege that separates him from their world. In addition, he has constructed an ingenious metaphor—a “colony within a nation”—to describe the status of urban neighborhoods within the United States, a metaphor which I think will be useful for all Americans, but especially resonant for the privileged and patriotic American who still--in spite of our founders’ flaws—identifies strongly with the revolutionary aims of the early days of the republic.

One of the most effective—and most likable—aspects of Hayes’ book is the way he uses his own experiences to illuminate the plight of black people in America, without ever seeming proprietary or presumptive. For example, he tells about the one time—in his student days—when he was genuinely terrified of the police: he suddenly realized, going through a security check at the Republican National Convention, that, located in a side pocket of his travel bag, shoved into an eyeglass case, was thirty bucks worth of weed. (Mercifully things worked out alright, but it was a close call.) He contrasts this story with another close call experienced by political activist Dayton Love, who Hayes met on the streets of Baltimore. Love, on his way home from a high school debate tournament, was stopped by police because of a nearby purse-snatching and shown to a hesitant witness for identification, when he suddenly remembered he had an ATM slip in his pocket that provided him with an alibi. Hayes remarks:
Fair to say that Dayton and I, in our ways, both dodged a bullet, but the similarities ended there. I actually did something wrong: I was carrying an illegal drug. I wasn’t quick enough on my feet to defuse the situation, and even if I had been arrested and booked, it almost certainly would have worked out fine in the end. The stakes felt very high, but they were actually pretty low.

Dayton, on the other hand, had done nothing wrong. Unlike me, he was quick enough on his feet to successfully defuse the situation. And while for me the stakes were in reality rather low, for him they weren’t. Everything really could have changed in that moment for the worse. Out of those two brushes with the law, we both ended up with the same outcome: a clean record and a sigh of relief. But it took vastly different degrees of effort and ingenuity to get there.
Chris tells us other stories about himself too: as a student at Brown (where they called the campus police “Four Point Nines” because they really weren’t quite “Five-ohs”), as a journalist with an infra-red 9 millimeter pistol being tested by a police reality simulator, as both a young boy (before “broken windows” policing) being mugged on the street of NYC and as a man in NYC (after “broken windows” policing) benefiting from the new order and the cleanliness yet uneasy with the method that claims to have produced them, to name a few. All his anecdotes are brief and illuminating, used at the service of his arguments, not his ego.

Among the many thoughts about crime and policing advanced in this book—from how “white fear” produces a rage for order, to the militarization of modern policing—perhaps the most original and memorable is Hayes idea of “a colony in a nation.” The plight of black people in America resembles that of the colonists in the days before the revolutionary war, suppressed by an indifferent colonial government that cares more for order than for law, more for revenue than for justice. And what all Americans must not forget is that someday we all may be treated like “the colonists”:
...American criminal justice isn’t one system with racial disparities but two distinct regimes. One (that Nation) is the kind of policing regime you expect in a democracy; the other is the kind you expect in an occupied land...Maintaining the division between the Colony and the Nation is treacherous precisely because the constant threats that the tools honed in the colony will be wielded in the Nation; that tyranny and violence tolerated at the periphery will ultimately infiltrate the core. American police shoot an alarmingly high and disproportionate number of black people. But they also shoot a shockingly high number of white people.
Our American constitution is strong, but democracy itself can be fragile. And the tools of tyranny, once selectively practiced, can always be universally implemented. If we refuse to acknowledge that all Americans are citizens, as worthy of full civil rights as ourselves, then one day—depending upon whom our president may be—we could all wake up to find ourselves "colonists in a nation."
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews926 followers
April 14, 2019
Like Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy (which I recently read and heartily recommend), in A Colony in a Nation, Chris Hayes highlights how the American experience you live depends on which America you live in. Hayes' breaks down the differing experience of whites and blacks with crime and punishment (as well as opportunity) to the paradigm of colony and nation. The analysis of politicians' self-serving rhetoric in their call for law and order is looked at from both a historical and contemporary perspective. This was one of the strengths of the book: comparing the enforcement of laws in colonial America with the enforcement of laws in Ferguson and to other predominately black neighborhoods.

Calls for law and order may seem beneficial to everyone, but these calls need to be looked at in their context (colony and nation); then, you can see how the nation benefits (usually economically) at the expense of the colony. Later sections focus on the shifting boundaries between the colony and the nation (sometimes caused by gentrification of neighborhoods), as well as protected areas of the nation (such as college campuses). This was an engaging study which I recommend.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,780 reviews14.2k followers
May 24, 2017
A cry for social justice and a sobering look at our unfair and unequal criminal justice system. Chris Hayes more than adequently pinpoints exactly where and how our justice system has been anything but just for many. The statistics presented and the individual cases were cause for alarm, the rate at which we incarcerate people in this country, staggering. On the ground in Ferguson, during the protests after the killing of Michael Brown, he describes what happened during a before, things not shown in our nightly news segments. There was much more going on in that town, for many years, then we were told.

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.

Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,363 followers
March 23, 2017
A Colony in a Nation made for excellent reading. As the blurb describes, Chris Hayes contends that the US “is 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.” Hayes, who is white, draws from his own experience growing up in New York, from many interviews and his experiences as a journalist, and from historical and political sources. His argument is compelling, and without suggesting a practical solution he does end his book with an alternate positive vision for policing and the criminal justice system. My main issue with Hayes’ book is not what he has to say, but that it has been said in so many different ways already and, yet, as I watch the current state of US politics, I see no progress towards addressing the issues Hayes deals with. On the contrary, it looks like things are backsliding – before the election, there was an apparent slight move away from mass incarceration and prison privatization. But now, including with the approach to immigration, aggressive policing in disadvantaged communities seems to be going full steam ahead. And it’s being justified with the very type of populist fear mongering Hayes decries in his book. Hopefully, in the long run, what Hayes has to contribute to the discussion is more than “spitting in the wind”, but it sure doesn’t look like it right now. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Christy.
113 reviews270 followers
September 26, 2017
"One of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” James Baldwin

I thought of this quote as I finished Hayes, and that the problem probably gets down to pain. However, I’m still confused if it’s mostly through hateful anger (or “White Rage”, as Carol Anderson reminds us of who’s anger is mostly the problem) or paranoid fear (“White fear”, as Hayes emphasizes). White fear is part of the overall “fear of the other” as Hayes experienced in urban NYC. With all its multicultural cosmopolitan veneer, fear is a driver of both personal and interpersonal paranoia and suspicion as well as social policy in NYC, as it is elsewhere. White fear, more than any other force, determine U.S. politics. Last month, Trump told a group of cops not to hold the heads down to protect suspects from banging them as they were put into backs of patrol cars. Many will envision largely dark-haired people so abused without the assumption of innocence, and they’d be right. Law enforcement and criminal justice organizations admit some institutional racism but still deny the organizations are dysfunctional – by nature and design, Hayes does argue.

As news junkies we watch a bunch of television news as background as we read but more often our daughter switches us to BBC World, PBS, and C-SPANs rather than MSNBC. I do confess to a late night guilty pleasure with Rachel Maddow since the election, but not for long as my patience with her redundancy has collapsed. An OWG in my home watches another OWG - Chris Matthews - with some devotation. I don’t watch Chris Hayes as I find it's more of a frenetic search for the best sound bite instead of focused, in-depth dialogue. (I can’t say it’s “just” his youth, as I feel the same about Lawrence O’Donnell – who always wears a smirk.) I do know, however, that Hayes had a clear bead on White racism post-election, and did a stunningly powerful interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates on racism in the U.S. as a legacy of Obama’s presidency that triggered a coalescence of White fear and rage that also gave us Trump (http://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/ta-...). I did like Hayes work here better than his last one that was also “good” but obsessed with proving a true meritocracy (or an America itself?) that never quite existed, so more tortured logic. Hayes does get, like many spanning the political spectrums from core Trump supporters to the hard-left, that we have “two Americas” now in the US. Hughes, in Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America, and other progressive social critics and educators asked us long ago to “teach to the conflict” (philosophically between the “patriotically correct” and “politically correct”) so perhaps teachers should offer interdisciplinary courses using literature, social science, and hard science (e.g., climate change disparity) with the “Two Americas” metaphor.

Hayes uses the historical processes of colonization including of the US as England’s colony, but also the entire history of European colonization including that of India and much of the entire continent of Africa as a frame for understanding African-Americans as a colony. Scrappy Colonial America had to fight off the British Crown like we make Blacks fight against their colonizers, us Whites. About a third of White people in the US choose the blissful ignorance about slavery, the failure of Reconstruction, the harsh racism in the North after the Great Migration, and many decades of institutionalized racism. We rejected the Crown not so much over taxes, but over social control tactics with the obligatory policing arm of the Nation, much as any Nation-State does (defined by an old historian I knew as a geographic area with a standing army). The French and Indian War impoverished England but the King’s attempt to collect more taxes from the colonists had tax collectors using strong-arm tactics like the “stop and frisk” now used in communities of color. The Blacks that revolt under such policing tactics are simply doing what the colonists did against the British, Hayes argues, and the he rebels and smugglers (like John Hancock and others) who were bucking the order expected by the British Crown are like drug-dealing in low socio-economic status neighborhoods and parts of the US today. He specifically mentions Northern Maine, largely White poor with also a Native American population that I know is damaged economically thus socially, but also many of the largely urban communities of color.

The “colony” of much of African American life is controlled from without its neighborhood boundaries. Blauner had a similar theory decades ago, with his notion of “internal colonialism” – that what was similar across low socio-economic communities, of race but also White poor, including urban Blacks, barrio Hispanics, Indian reservations, the schools, stores, and social-cultural institutions were virtually all controlled by those from without those communities. So, disproportionately Whites come in to teach, run the stores, and staff the offices in those “internal colonized” communities, then too often leave. Many reviews think Hayes’ argument of how colonialization in the US experience is linked to all of Black-White relations is a few argument, but it is one of those times when I remember one of my own professors who insisted we don’t recognize that none of our thoughts are original until we’re at least 30 (or have moved beyond young adulthood.)

“Law and order” is the ethos of the “White Man’s (sic?) Burden” of the entire history of the U.S. for both the colonizer (Nation – with democratic ideals) and the colonized, the Colony that the system keeps in place. Trump has said he’s a “law and order” president, signaling both the largely unfounded fear of POC in his White supporters and the largely founded and logical fear that many Black Americas (and other POC) have of the White police state. I’ve read over the past few decades various post-colonial theorists and historians that suggest that post-colonialization is hallmarked by similar processes to colonialization itself, or a perpetual re-colonialization. Nation-States are “free” but are largely robbed of natural resources, and are made dysfunctional by the colonialist remnants in their culture, psyche, and behavior. (I was in Antigua and saw Black kids made to stand still in the hot sun or they’d get a switch on their legs, and parents mocked by principal for not all showing up at the PTA meeting, and assured by the principal that even though the “government” has an initiative to stop corporal punishment in the schools, “we will be paddling your children!” to both cheers and silence from both parents and teachers.) Colonization is over, but the authoritarian, “law and order” was evoked by Nixon when he claimed that Black America wanted the pride of what it meant to be an America instead of more “government programs” that kept them in a subjugated colony in an otherwise free Nation-State. Hayes sees this as highly ironic, as it’s true that Blacks and other people of color disproportionately live in a segregated (or resegregated) world within the US that doesn’t produce or get it’s share of the American Pie, but it’s the increasingly militarized police state the “government” provides to many Blacks, in lieu of or contradicting humanitarian social programs. Keeping Blacks in order and check is normalized as a simple part of a Conservative impulse to try to keep overall social order, and Hayes is spot-on there.

Hayes gives a number of examples from Northeast college towns and his own urban experiences of what I’d call more commonly “town and gown” issues (that are always about class, but often also about race – also gender) in how “rowdy” behavior by White college students would get Black “townies” with similar behavior thrown into jail. How do the post-colonizers treat those more explicitly colonized that are still in their orbit? It’s a Faustian bargain where Whites accept that communities of color need to have strong-armed policing to keep our society as safe and “free” (for us, at least) as possible. I remember a New York philosophy professor who said how it was “at least good that we don’t’ have to be afraid to walk around Manhattan anymore!” after Pataki had instituted his “broken window”-like policy and punitive measures and billyclubbed and gave bus tickets to rid many areas of NYC of poor Blacks and others that didn’t fit a sanitized version of Manhattan. First, Becker taught us that it’s society, not any text, person, or entity, that defines the deviant, and which deviance is patrolled for and how punished. The entire systems of law enforcement and the criminal justice that are ostensibly about rehabilitation and the return to the citizen to the full rights of his or her society, but in actuality it’s the warehousing of the poor for retribution.

The arbitrary nature of our criminal justice system has in virtually every way and around every corner punished (and often ruined) the lives of Blacks. Black on Black gun violence, long the darling of Whites who cannot face even an iota of the rage and fear of their own White racism (“they do it to themselves!”) can be viewed as an aspect of lingering colonialization – of informal, if deadly, social control. Is post-colonial just neo-colonial education, institutions, social structure, and psychology? We have, by far, the largest percentage of our citizens currently incarcerated in the world, and most of them are low, socio-economic Black and Hispanic men. We’ve created this system of segregation out of our system of democracy, so as a good liberal perhaps Hayes has no choice but stopping short of telling us what’s wrong with our version of democracy that allowed such a grotesque consequence.

Hayes notes, “White fear is both a social fact and something burned into our individual neural pathways.” White fear of crime by POC is high, and I’ve seen psychological tests that Whites fear Black urban male the most. I’d also suggest this is compounded by “stranger danger” paranoia when close to 100% of kidnappings and physical and sexual abuse of children is from adults within and near to the home or family, but we’re socialized regularly with “missing kid de jour” on social media that also keeps us fearful and distrustful, especially of dark-skinned people. I was working with Haymarket and Community Change out of Boston when I think we put on the first two conferences on “whiteness”, in ’93 and ’94. The movement was coopted (as they generally are) and made more academic than activist, but it sure still doesn’t hurt to teach White people about Whiteness, what it means to be White in the U.S., about White privilege, and why some Whites would consider a concept such as “White privilege” bogus and part of the problem of liberal elites.

Hayes reviews the Ferguson disaster of Michael Brown’s killing. White privilege is something a native New Yorker, immersed in multiculturalism, finds hard to understand completely. He mentions the young girl in South Carolina being body-slammed to the ground, and a major point is that the colonized need to be quiet, compliant, and just do as they’re told. Police “had” to tear-gas Ferguson Black families after they resisting going back into their homes instead of out in their own yards. The most painful horrors of the deaths of Sandra Bland in Texas and Freddy Gray in Baltimore cause us cognitive dissonance, as it’s clear skin color is a major factor. We shouldn’t be surprised that “deep North”, largely White New England colleges and universities Blacks from four to eight times as likely to get arrested for marijuana as are Whites. We know the race disparity of sentencing based on Whites use of cocaine and Blacks use of crack were noted in criminology literature for 30 years.

Carol Anderson in White Rage let us know that Brown’s school was on probation for 15 years, and the shameful, near criminal descriptions of a low socio-economic school for Blacks in East St. Louis is only five miles away from Ferguson, as Kozol described in Savage Inequalities 20 years ago. School segregation has relentlessly, tragically, increased along race and class lines for the last 40 years. I realized when the Office of Civil Rights wasn’t going to withhold it’s scant federal dollars to Oakland after years of “violations” we were never going to do so (whether to “force” local-level accountability) even if we agree withholding funds for poor community schools for being poor probably wasn’t a productive strategy (as the state “take over” of schools has largely not been successful, either).

Hayes does discuss how chronically the education of Black communities is of often considerably poorer quality as measured by many indicators. I was in civil rights in he 90s when, after the disastrous experiment of school busing was ending, schools began to resegregate and the Department of Education administrators over the Office of Civil Rights panicked and decided to move the (token) funding for school desegregation to yet another experiment, that of the magnet school. Magnet schools could “cream” the top-achieving kids of color out of their communities (where they should be serving as role models in high-quality neighborhood schools) and make it look like that was fixing the system of racist educational inequity. The metaphor of “choice” in schools has brainwashed parents to think that as a prize in itself, even if there is little and laughable actual choice.

Those colonial conquests Hayes discusses I know from my own study are sometimes subtitled euphemistically in our elementary social studies textbooks as “voyages of discovery” – rugged individualism and the exploration ethos rather than greed, power, and control of others under the banner of a flag and standing Army – one definition of a Nation-State. We’ve presided over a 30+ year collapse of tenets, enforcements, training, and education for both the ’64 Civil Rights Act and ’65 VRA in the US. The legacy of colonialization means that laws are passed to placate agitating groups, and letting those laws falter shows we likely were never committed to equality but the illusion of fairness and token, individual successes.

White people paying attention know that Hayes is right that something is shifting more quickly than ever before with Black parents, especially those of Black males. Even in academia, I know Black women that are desperate to raise their Black children outside of the danger that awaits them from racist police. The racist AG Sessions boldly announced he was directing the DOJ to halt investigations of racist police actions and collusion. Hayes was optimistic, but I think only a few had the hope that Obama’s presidency indicated and predicted betterment of race relations in the US. For over half a century social science on race and ethnic relations has shown in dozens of qualitative and quantitative studies that Blacks and Whites had markedly different views about race equality in the U.S. As with Myrdal of 70 years ago, Whites are often concerned with personal interactions, and Blacks are often concerned with equal access to opportunities, including the educational and economic.

Hayes stops short of a truly radical critique, and expresses the modern angst of the classical liberal living in a neoliberal reality. He’s not Joan Baez, saying to “raze the prisons down”, that is a logical reaction if you pull the lens far enough back from the morass of the US prison system, especially in terms of the Holy Trinity of race, class, and gender. Our society tells Black men that it’s a fair society, a “race blind” meritocracy even if you need luck on top of all your hard work and any talent or proclivities you happen to have. (There was a recent Atlantic article about how damaged children of color become when we lie to them through all our institutions that we have a fair society.) Drug courts are one answer I don’t think Hayes mentioned that shows promise in addressing hard drug addiction where essentially the person agrees to go right to treatment instead of to prison – at least initially. This would immediately reduce incarceration, as State governments gear up for more privatization of both prisons and soldiers under Trump and criminal justice is a “growth industry”. I’ve had more than one student who has said drug court saved their lives as it gave them a chance (and with supports) to kick the habit.

All sources of authority are increasingly questionable and questioned across the political spectrum. We’re in a full-scale “legitimation crisis” that Habermas told us about. The nation-state flexes it’s power because it can through the law, but most nation-states don’t believe in putting its sovereign citizens to death, considered, by most measures, an abuse of the power of the nation-state. Criminologist buddies have shown me data for decades about racism and classism on death row (“there aren’t any rich people there” – none). I asked the head of prison education besides class what was the common denominator of prison inmates and he immediately said undiagnosed learning disability. (Let that sink in.) Such children, especially Black boys realizing the deck is literally stacked against them, even though they’re taught the opposite, and start to have difficulties reconciling their truth of racism and failed expectations (and in middle school often start to experience significant difficulties (as per Atlantic article) and also with a learning difference would more likely fall through the cracks in the underfunded schools for children of color.

In an all-White, bucolic coastal community of Damariscotta, Maine, the police chief is gleeful about their new riot-type uniforms, gear, black “stealth” patrol cars including big SUVs, and other Homeland Security hand-me-downs. An Illinois police chief defended the militarialization of a largely White, upper-middle class neighborhood west of Chicago noting “it’s a jungle out there!” The military and police have distinct functions that got blurred when in ’64 Gates in LA asked the military to help civilian law enforcement – the military is to go after a target, while law enforcement is to keep people and property safe.

I find Hayes’ metaphor mostly works, but I don’t intend to use it. While it’s historically and philosophically interesting, for sure, I don’t think I’ll add yet another sound bite in my theoretical analysis of race and racism in the U.S. Even as an academic, I have to say (gasp) the concept is largely only academic. It doesn’t expand my teaching of anti-racism and history of racism for White students. It pains me that Hayes gives no proscriptions. I wonder if my standards are lowering, as I’m increasingly content to think a book is worthy and even feel some gratitude for it if written by a White male about U.S. Black-White racism. Will some Trump White voters read it solely because a White guy wrote it and have an epiphany?
Profile Image for Karen.
796 reviews93 followers
February 4, 2017

I am so glad I read this book. It is relevant and an important to the current events happening today in our Democracy. I feel like the author raises important issues. I think it makes and illuminates how there is still racial inequalities in certain states. I feel like every police officer and cruiser should be mandated by federal law to have a camera on their body and on their cars. They should be made to have dashboard cameras. Police brutality is on the rise and there have been too many instances where their is an abuse of power. I have read about and seen corruption in the way the laws are enforced with people of different ethnicity other then white. I also think that people that live at the poverty level do not have the resources to a fair trial. Many innocent people are sent to prison because they lack the ability to pay thousands of dollars for attorneys fees. Ask yourself this question: Who do you think a judge is going to believe when it comes to being wrongly accused of committing a crime?. You or the police officer?

This book was on my wishlist. Many huge thanks to the Publisher for granting me my wish. It was an honor to read an early copy and review this book. Many huge thanks to Christopher L. Hayes for writing such a timely important book and for granting me my wish. Thank you to Net Galley for my digital copy for a fair and honest review.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,438 followers
July 30, 2018
Hayes focuses directly on a subject about which I am likewise vitally interested: the ‘colony within a nation’ (the way blacks are treated in our majority white nation). Nixon spoke of this colony in his 1968 convention speech: “To those who say law and order is the code word for racism, there and here is a reply: Our goal is justice for every American.” The present administration also made an eerie call for law and order during DJT's inauguration, though since Bannon was sidelined, there is less of it.

Hayes reminds me of a bright college student, bursting with new learning and excited to share what he’s read. That’s what I like about him, but it is also what I distrust about him. He’ll bring up something genuinely interesting and important, like incarceration in the United States, cite a couple authors who have recently written about the phenomenon, and then proceed to opinion without a full back-and-forth on the issue. His argument is relatively complete and points to unformed solutions…I mean, I agree with the guy mostly, but somehow it feels disingenuous, like a middle-of-the-night hearing. Let’s get it all out there. This book feels like an hors d’oeuvre.

It makes a difference, I think, that Hayes is the son of a Jesuit-turned activist and grew up living his father’s principles in the Bronx. He saw some things and live-learned how to be ethical and examine the roots of one’s own behaviors. It shows now. He’s willing to wade into some gnarly social issues like policing and look closely at them, taking a look at himself, his class, his color, his cohort at the same time. The times he was caught with marijuana are illustrative. These incidents play a part in his surprise conclusions: that maybe basically benign campus policing is the kind of policing we should look at: more focus on safety and less on order.

When discussing the spike in the incident of crime in NYC in the 1980s to early 1990s he doesn’t credit its turnaround to anything the government did. He talks about the beginning of community policing based on the “broken windows” theory posited originally by George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson in the 1982 Atlantic essay “Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety,” but argues that the decrease in crime rates are inexplicable, and not due to increasing rates of incarceration. “In 2016 Gallup found American’s fears of crime hit a fifteen year high, even as crime itself was near historic lows.” The present administration is not allaying fears of crime, but stoking white fear.
“White fear emanates from knowing that white privilege exists and the anxiety that it might end. No matter how many white people tell pollsters that ‘today discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks’ (60 percent of the white working class in one poll). we know that this story of anti white bias is not true. But we do know that having it ‘better’ isn’t permanent, that it could collapse. We know equality might someday come, and it might mean giving up one’s birthright or, more terrifyingly, having it taken away. That perhaps our destiny is indeed a more equal society, but one where equality means equal misery, a social order where all the plagues of the ‘ghetto’ escape past its borders and infect the population at large.”
What the f is a birthright? Don't we all have one? Things are going to change, but no one is going to take anything away from you. When you stop demonizing a race of people, you take away the source of fear—for them, and for you. You gain something. Black people in your neighborhood doesn’t necessarily mean more crime comes with them. Conversely, it may mean less crime all ‘round. The stressors may disappear with the move.

Hayes takes a page directly from Bryan Stevenson (Equal Justice Initiative, and author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption) when he argues that we cannot focus on the criminality of what people do if we hope to make rehabilitation a goal. “Human beings are not defined by the worst thing they ever did” is a statement both men use.
“What kind of justice system would exist in a setting in which each member of society were actually valued as a full human with tremendous potential, even if he or she committed a crime, or hurt someone, or broke the community’s norms were held accountable?…What would a criminal justice system for the elite look like?”
Hayes answers this with an anecdote about getting caught smoking weed at Brown. He goes on to say “the cause of our current state of affairs lies in tasking police with preserving order rather than with ensuring safety.” Perhaps if the police took care of safety, community members could take care of order? Hayes ends saying he doesn’t want to feel afraid like he did as a kid in NYC, but thinks injustice towards some in our society is a wrong that cannot stand. I’m with him on that.
Profile Image for Erin .
1,274 reviews1,199 followers
May 30, 2020
4.5 Stars

I've had this book since the week it came out but I was afraid to read it. I knew it would piss me off and ruin my mood. All week this book had been on my mind.

On Monday May 25 George Floyd was murdered in cold blood by 4 Minneapolis police officers. I would like to say that watching this man be slowly murdered by people who claim to "Serve and Protect" was shocking but I can't. I wasn't shocked or surprised. Saddest of all I wasn't even mad.

I was exhausted.
I was tired down to my bones.

Black and Brown people are second class citizens in America.

Our lives don't matter.

That's not a slogan its a fact.

A Colony In A Nation is smart and deeply researched look at the 2 Americas. In one America "The Nation" the police are the people you call for help. In "The Colony" the police bring fear and aggressive "order". White lives are far more likely to receive justice because they simply matter more. That's not political that's just real life.

Chris Hayes is one of my favorite tv hosts(his podcast is great too!)I find him to be thoughtful and sincere. I just think he's cool and brilliant.

The only reason I didn't give this 5 stars is because it wasn't long enough. If you take out the index, bibliography, acknowledgements and notes this book is only 220 pages. I need more!

A Must Read!
Profile Image for Conor Ahern.
660 reviews192 followers
June 22, 2017
This is a short book, and it sports some plaudits on its back cover from some serious heavyweights. So I guess I was expecting to be wowed a bit. I'm not sure it got me there, but there were some interesting points, however briefly they were explored.

The book uses the heuristic of The Colony (inhabited by racial minorities, most of whom are Black, and the poor, most of whom are minorities) and The Nation (where the rest of us live) to expose the "Two Americas" that we inhabit. The Colony receives order (submitting to the police state or risking death, even absent Constitutional authority) in return for giving profit (in Fergusson-type scenarios where fines for petty crimes subsidize the rich and white) to the Nation. None of this is a particularly fresh take, nor is this topic much enhanced by being interlarded with stories of Hayes' white-boy privilege, the only thing that really sets this book apart from the works of other, earlier (mostly Black) authors and social critics.

So for most of the book, my assessment was "So what?" But Hayes redeems himself slightly toward the end. He explores some interesting ideas about American's love for retribution (compared with our European counterparts' more humane approaches) being rooted in our election of prosecutors and (ironically) our lesser tolerance for aristocracy (the idea being that Europeans began to think that more clement "aristocratic justice" should eventually be extended to all, while we in the colonies started with a perhaps admirable tradition of treating all malefactors to the stocks, even if the days of throwing the book at the rich with equal frequency are long past us). He also touches on the role of guns in maintaining racial hierarchies, and highlights America's incarceration mania by mentioning that if America were all white, we'd still have the 16th highest incarceration rate in the world, a simply staggering statistic given how suffused our society is with the doctrine of white supremacy.

The problem is that he never really explores these interesting points! And why not? He only made it to 220 pages! Did he need to make a deadline or something?
Profile Image for Jessica Sullivan.
521 reviews440 followers
August 29, 2017
To say that America is divided is nothing new, but Chris Hayes brings such a fresh new perspective to this reality. In this aptly titled book he suggests that there are actually two entirely distinct Americas: the Colony and the Nation. As he explains it:

"If you live in the Nation, the criminal justice system functions like your laptop’s operating system, quietly humming in the background, doing what it needs to do to allow you to be your most efficient, functional self. In the Colony, the system functions like a computer virus: it intrudes constantly, interrupts your life at the most inconvenient times, and it does this as a matter of course. The disruption itself is normal.

In the Nation, there is law; in the Colony, there is only a concern with order. In the Nation, citizens call the police to protect them. In the Colony, subjects flee the police, who offer the opposite of protection. In the Nation, you have rights; in the Colony, you have commands. In the Nation, you are innocent until proven guilty; in the Colony, you are born guilty."

Hayes is an extremely engaging writer, and I was hooked by his conversational style and keen insights within the first couple pages. As someone who was already deeply familiar with the racial disparities in the American criminal justice system going into this, I found myself most fascinated by the different ways that he connected the present-day Colony and Nation to the American Colonies once occupied by Britain.

He also has a chapter at the end on America's obsession with punitive justice that perfectly conveys so many thoughts I've had but couldn't properly articulate.

Never self-righteous, always plainly and uncomfortably aware that he himself is a member of the Nation and benefits from it every day, Hayes challenges us to think about what it would mean if we all lived in the same America.
Profile Image for Stacy Bearse.
797 reviews5 followers
March 27, 2017
I know of Chris Hayes through his television show, and had high hopes for his new book. Hope quickly morphed into disappointment as I plowed through his rambling narrative on racism and the justice system. He randomly touches on hot-button issues - police as warriors, incarceration rates, policing as a profit center, American clusters of self-perpetuating poverty, racial profiling, etc. - but never really makes a point. A 200-page book that tackles such a complex subject must be written like a haiku, where every word counts. Hayes' new work is more like a shapeless blob, bloated by personal reminiscences: A disorganized rant in search of an overarching conclusion.
Profile Image for Julie .
4,076 reviews59k followers
May 2, 2017
A Colony in a Nation by Christopher L. Hayes is a 2017 W.W. Norton Company publication.

This is a very thought provoking book which blends politics, sociology, race relations, and history to explain how America ended up having a ‘Colony in a Nation’.

This book delves into the justice system's flaws, the police mentality, profiling, violence, and ‘for profit’ policing, among other things.

‘Depending on who you are, the sight of an officer can produce either a warm sense of safety and contentment or a plummeting feeling of terror.”

I will be the first to admit I’m no sociology major, nor do I have any first -hand experience with the situations outlined here, but the problems the author tackles has a bearing on our entire nation, making it a problem we must all address, remained informed about, and in these current times, remain diligent, no matter where you live, or your personal circumstances.

I found the author’s insights were quite interesting as he drew parallels from history to show similarities in the way policing is approached in modern times.

“Presented with a challenge to its power, an illegitimate regime will often overreact, driven by the knowledge that all they have is force.”

I should mention, I don’t have cable, and so I don’t get to watch Christopher L. Hayes’ show on MSNBC, but do follow him on social media, but perhaps I am not as familiar with his style as many of you may be.

I think he makes some interesting points, and I loved how he offered very personal testimony about his own life, which seemed to give the book a much more intimate feel. I felt this topic was very important to the author and he came off as being genuine.

I was a little disappointed with the brevity of the book, which is much shorter than I realized, and became a little frustrated with the writing style. Hayes is a journalist who can command attention, resonates with his viewers, and is evidently quite popular, but the book was not always coherent, or cohesive, and could be disjointed at times.

The polarization, the division, the ‘Nation’ and the ‘Colony’ is all laid out, and exposed, but then it just abruptly came to an end. I guess I was hoping for something a little more in depth, but overall, I did enjoy his thoughts, and musings, the way he incorporated history and his personal background into the narrative, and the valid, and very relevant points he makes along the way.

While I haven't read any other books on this subject, the author did suggest a few, as reference, which do seem to offer up a more comprehensive approach, and so, I may have to look into those suggestions sometime in the near future.

Overall, despite a few minor disappointments with the book, it still found that it was a compelling read, is easy to work into your reading schedule and is a must for fans of this author.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Lauren .
1,735 reviews2,336 followers
June 21, 2017
Still processing this one, and will be for sometime. I'm amazed by Hayes' deft analysis of situations, both modern and historical.

Some ponderings and take-aways:

- Law AND order as two separate entities in policing practice. These words are said together and thus rendered the same in many minds, my own included. Hayes makes a clear distinction and why that matters.
- This model of colony and nation was so "on", once painted in the historical context of the American Revolution.
- Humiliation and shame as fear tactic

Highly recommended - perhaps one of the most important books I'll read this year.
Profile Image for The Pfaeffle Journal (Diane).
156 reviews11 followers
December 16, 2017
In a Christian Science Monitor book review Nick Romeo, notes:

The title comes from a phrase that Richard Nixon used in a 1968 speech at the Republican National Convention. “Black Americans,” he said, “do not want more government programs which perpetuate dependency. They don’t want to be a colony in a nation.” Hayes argues that in the half-century since Nixon’s speech, white America has subjugated a colony of the unfree within its own borders.

The idea that the criminal justice system is divided into two systems, one for whites and one for black has come to the forefront of American political discourse. Hayes does a good job of providing us with overwhelming evidence that there still is a large amount of racial bias. Police departments have become more militarized since 9/11 and that has become very evident when you see protest marches on the television. Hayes describes how "white fear" has led to politicians and the police to institute in some areas of the country a warfare mentality. We need as a nation become aware of our tribal instincts and the need to rise above those.

Hayes is an excellent writer, very readable, sometimes I feel his writing is better than his interviewing as seen on All in with Chris Hayes. This was an audiobook and it was read by the author. I am a fan of Chris Hayes and look forward to hearing and reading more from him.

This review was originally posted on The Pfaeffle Journal
Profile Image for Ang.
1,745 reviews40 followers
December 23, 2016
This was an amazing read. It's horrifying and depressing, but also enlightening and necessary. I know this will stick with me for a long time (I finished it late last night, and this morning, I've woken up thinking about it), and the questions it raises are so apt for a Chicagoan. Any American, of course, but as a Chicagoan it really hits home.

I almost feel like I need to read this again, just to really take it all in.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
Profile Image for Meike.
1,587 reviews2,810 followers
June 5, 2018
What a fantastic exploration into white fear and its consequences for policing and the prison system in the US! It is a well-known fact by now that America imprisons a higher percentage of its citizens than any other country (except the Seychelles), and Hayes ventures to explain this phenomenon by making a compelling case for the argument that "American criminal justice isn't one system with massive racial disparities but two distinct regimes. One (the Nation) is the kind of policing regime you expect in a democracy; the other (the Colony) is the kind you expect in an occupied land."

To support this thesis, Hayes goes back to the historic development of criminal justice in the US (also compared to Europe), the role of money, the fetishim of order, the war on drugs, the instrumentalization of "fighting crime" and "fighting terrorism" for other purposes, irrational beliefs, humiliation as a weapon, the rather pathetic degree of training that American police officers receive before starting their jobs, and the effect of the American obsession with guns: "If the people are armed enough to threaten the state's control, then the state's monopoly on violence is in question, and it therefore often acts less like it's enforcing the law than putting down an insurrection.

I really liked how Hayes - a privileged white news anchor who attended an Ivy League School - brings himself and his own experiences into the story: While describing his own behavior in certain instances and speculating how it would have been perceived if he was a black man, he makes some great points; in his job as a reporter, he also witnessed some crucial events in recent history himself. Hayes is very empathic and self-critical while trying to figure out what went wrong and how the criminal justice system can be fixed. "White fear emanates from knowing that white privilege exists and the anxiety that it might end", he writes, and later: "We directly, materially, personally benefit from the status quo, no matter what awful costs it imposes on those in the Colony."

In an afterword, he discusses this insight in the context of the...äääähhh...phenomenon that we now have to call the American president: Trump induces fear to heighten his power, he instrumentalizes the law to unjustly oppress the Colony in the name of "order", but he negates that the law applies to himself, those close to him and those who share his views - the law is not the great equalizer it is supposed to be, it becomes a means to preserve power and white privilege.

"White fear is a potent force in American politics, but it is not unconquerable. Citizens like you and me collectively determine how much power it has" Hayes writes in the closing paragraph. "The borders between the Colony and the Nation are ours to redraw or, should we be audacious enough, annihilate altogether."

A great book, highly recommended.
Profile Image for Lissa.
1,130 reviews115 followers
July 16, 2017
Well, colour me disappointed after reading this book. I was fully prepared to love it. I was fully prepared for it to make me think, to expand my horizons, to enrich my life. Instead, it gave me a headache.

I was first introduced to Chris Hayes when he would fill in for Rachel Maddow on her program (back when I still had cable and watched the news every night). This was, of course, before he had his own program, which I believe is right around Maddow's time slot (either directly before or directly after, I do believe). Of course, I was always a bit disappointed to discover that Rachel was out for the night (or the week, or whatever), because I am going to admit that I am shallow as hell and one of the reasons that I would watch Maddow's program every night (although not the only reason!!), at that time, was because I had a serious case of the hots for her (still do, by the way, haha, even though I have given up cable and being a news hound).

But Chris Hayes was a good fill in for her; he seemed a little...exuberant...at times, and he often looked smug. Maybe he just has Resting Smug Face (as I have Resting Bitch Face to Vivian Leigh levels, I can't really say much). But he was also thoughtful and engaging, for the most part, so I was hoping this book would be the same. (Spoiler: it's not.)

I always feel, before I review a book that has to do with race and colour, that I have the establish my own background. People often assume that I am "white" and "privileged" and, therefore, know nothing about racism, classism, the daily struggle to stay alive, etc. I do not consider myself to be "white," having grown up in an area where it was made quite clear that I was most definitely "other" on the checklist, although my skin is relatively pale. My "whiteness," or lack thereof, often depends on where I am. Am I considered "white" in New York City? Probably by most. In Appalachia? No, at least not where I am from - we were "kikes" instead (this was often said as a fact, with no malice, much as black people were called "coloured people" as a default where I'm from). Germany? Well, that depends on the era, but I can most assuredly tell you that my family in the 1930s and 1940s was not considered "white" or, really, even human.

And, according to Hayes' theory, I would argue that I grew up in the Colony, not the Nation.

The beginning of the book isn't really all that bad. Hayes endeavors to show that there are two separate societies in America - the Colony, where people are struggling and the police are often viewed as threats; and the Nation, which is the rest of the country, mostly white and middle-class or above, where the police are viewed as friends and everything is just hunky-dory all of the time (until the "Colony" comes creeping up, I guess).

And then, in what I would consider pretty shrewd, Hayes starts comparing the modern-day Colony to Colonial America. I've often remarked to friends that people who call themselves "patriots" today often bear little to no resemblance to the patriots of Revolutionary America (much as many "Christians" bear little to no resemblance to their Christ). Being a "patriot" today in 'Murica often means a conservative mindset, a desire to keep them damn "foreigners" out, being anti-abortion (but ironically calling themselves "pro-life," even though they don't give two squirts of piss about the lives of those children once they're born), being suspicious of "commies" and "libtards" and "snowflakes" (conveniently ignoring the fact, of course, that Drumpf is the biggest "snowflake" of them all), respective private property (coming back to this), and basically parroting everything that the Republican Party feeds them (there are, of course, Democrats who parrot everything that the Democratic Party feeds them, too; for the record, I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican).

But that isn't what the forefathers of America did. These crazy ass fuckers risked their own lives gambling on a future where the people were represented in their own government, with inalienable rights guaranteed because you are a human being (granted, at the time, "human" meant "white male" - women and people of colour were left out for a very long time, and in many ways are still trying to catch up).

There's not much funnier to me than a self-described "patriot" bitching about how protesters are "looting" and "trashing things" and how "unpatriotic" that is. I love to watch them squirm when I bring up the Boston Tea Party; it's really a thing of beauty as they try to wriggle their way off the hook that I have so carefully baited for them.

And that is, essentially, what Hayes is saying in the first part of the book, too. He likens protests from within the Colony to the acts that the Revolutionaries undertook, and it's pretty interesting. There are quite a few similarities, and I'd recommend the first chapter or two of this book to any "patriot" who has a problem with protesters (not that they're likely to change their minds, but I'd still recommend it).

But then the book kind of falls apart into disparate chapters about different "racial" topics, while Hayes futilely tries to corral the mass of fraying strings into his Colony-Nation dichotomy.

I would almost say here that it felt like Chris Hayes was trying to pad the book, but...there just isn't much in the first place to pad. The book is really short (223 pages) with a relatively sizable font and spacing between lines. Altogether, this feels more like a few essays that were strung together in a vain effort to make it a cohesive book.

One of the things that really takes the book off the rails for me is the amount of personal anecdotes that are somehow supposed to prove his points. They don't. The thing about personal anecdotes is that we all have them; I have plenty that would refute his points, and I have plenty that might confirm some of them in his mind, too. But you can't build arguments on how things play out solely in your life and then try to apply them to society as a whole, because it's going to be pretty easy for someone to come along and topple you over right quick.

For example, he talks about being maybe busted for having a little bit of marijuana in his backpack (I am uncertain if he was, indeed, busted) as a student going to a convention (the GOP one, if I am not mistaken). He spends pages on how scared he was, how he was sure that he would be arrested, how he could see himself being convicted of a crime. In the end, the officer apparently (if he did indeed see the marijuana) let it slide and didn't say a word to him. This proves, somehow, that Hayes lives in the Nation and not the Colony - had this occurred in the Colony to a person of colour, the result would have been quite different.

Go to the Colorado-Kansas border and watch how it plays out sometime. Although it's been ruled that they can no longer stop a car to search it simply because they have Colorado plates, it still happens (it happened once to me - fortunately, I am not a moron and keep my stores at home where they belong). Marijuana is legal in Colorado, but it's not in Kansas. And believe me, if you get pulled over in Kansas with pot on you, or even a bit of resin on a pipe, I do not give a shit how white you look or how privileged you think you are, you are going to come away in some legal trouble. But it shouldn't be like that, right? Because Colorado and Kansas are both in the Nation. Except that is exactly how it goes down - I know a couple of different people who were arrested in Kansas for this exact same reason, and they are ALL white. Kansas doesn't mess around. Don't take marijuana out of state, mmkay kids?

So if I used the same standard of evidence that Hayes does with his personal anecdotes, I guess I just blew the Colony-Nation dichotomy out of the water. Except I didn't, because it's a personal anecdote, and we all have them, and we all know that they're not very strong foundations to build arguments upon - which is why it absolutely baffles me that Hayes relies so much on his own personal experiences while trying to sketch out his argument.

Another thing that certainly doesn't help is when there are factual errors, as well. The one that really stuck out to me was Hayes' description of Michael Brown as a "seventeen-year-old black boy" (page 75). Except that Michael Brown was eighteen years old. And we can all quibble about how arbitrary the difference is between being seventeen and eighteen years old, how adolescence is a vague and confusing time frame that varies for all and it is society that states when it starts and when it ends, etc, etc. But the fact is, legally, Michael Brown was eighteen years old when he died and, legally, an adult.

He also tries to compare the police force of the United States with that of Finland and Japan (page 103). Finnish police only discharged their weapons six times in 2013, guys!!!! Yeah, and Finland and Japan are worlds different from the United States, and not just because we're bigger and have more access to guns. The author completely ignores societal reasons why the police forces in Finland and Japan would be SO INCREDIBLY DIFFERENT from American ones. Japan is a collectivist culture, for the most part, instead of individualistic (like America). Neither Japan nor Finland have such a tumultuous history as America, with multiple wars (including a very blood Civil War), uprisings, and episodes of civil unrest. Comparing these countries and acting like they should be similar, even though their histories are quite different, feels disingenuous to me.

I am not going to argue that people should have their own machine guns if they want (I find this ridiculous, to be honest), but Hayes then tries to segue into the "all guns are bad" trope. No. Do I believe in background checks and limitations on those who can own weapons? Sure. No one who makes multiple threats against his ex-wife, for example, should have ready access to guns; no one with a diagnosis of schizophrenia should, either. But I am a gun owner; I've been around guns for most of my life. Apparently I can't be a liberal and say that. ;) (It's okay, I already had to turn in my "liberal" card because I do not think that Ta-Nehisi Coates' book "Between the World and Me" is anything except crap.) And if you're living in the Colony, believe me, a gun can be a very good thing to have.

Another thing that pisses me off about books like these is that the authors tend to completely ignore class; instead, it's all about race. Ta-Nehisi Coates is excellent at this; in "Between the World and Me," he completely FAILS in this department, believing that all white children all have idealistic lives while all black children have shitty ones, all because of race. And while poverty and race can be linked, it isn't an absolute. I grew up poor and, according to Coates, who feels like he has the right to declare that all Jews are white (and has, multiple times, in multiple articles, completely IGNORING our complicated history - I wonder how he would feel if a "white" author spoke with such authority about people of colour's experiences?), "white," but it was no sitcom.

Poverty is grinding and colours every aspect of your life. People say that you're supposed to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and go out there and make something of yourself. It's kind of hard to do when you're hungry all of the time, so you have a difficult time concentrating on schoolwork. No one at home can help you - most of my family, for example, was pretty useless when it came to schoolwork. My grandmother was smart, but her education had stopped when she'd graduated from eighth grade; my grandfather dropped out of school when he was eleven to help support his family; my father, when he was around and not drunk or high, was barely literate; my mother is a few fries short of a happy meal in the best of times. And every time you open your damned mouth to speak, your accent screams "uneducated" to people from outside of the area, because Appalachian hillbillies are a "joke." Poverty, I would argue, keeps people in a rut more than race. But classism is completely ignored in this book, as it is in many books on similar subjects, unless it can be conveniently tied to race.

Another thing that Hayes completely ignores - and, once again, this baffles me - is the hardship that convicted felons face once they are released. They are permanently marked as second-class citizens - it shows up in every background check, so many jobs won't hire them. The jobs that DO hire them are often poorly paying, which only causes more stress. There is little focus on helping offenders, especially young ones, better themselves - educational and technical programs are often cut when behind bars. It's a vicious cycle, and I really wish that Hayes had touched upon this - but, once again, ignored. It's all about race, and if a point doesn't fit into that neat little box, it's cast aside.

(There are, of course, people who are predators and cannot be helped - but throwing a young person into prison because he had a spliff on him is ridiculous and should not be LIFE ENDING or incredibly LIFE ALTERING, which it can often so many times be, because of the hardships that convicted criminals face once paroled, even if their crime was non-violent, such as drug possession.)

Hayes does have a fairly solid point about how European sentences for criminals have "leveled up" (as in, brought everyone to a higher standard of treatment) while American sentences have "leveled down" (as in, brought everyone to the lowest common denominator when it comes to treatment). American prisons are a scary ass place; I've never been in one and don't ever plan on being in one, but I feel like there has GOT to be a better way.

Hayes' way sounds okay - "leveling up" instead of down, making sure that a criminal conviction doesn't mean that a person's life is over, etc - until he brought up Brock Turner. Turner is, of course, the infamous rapist who was a swimmer at Stanford who got a slap on his wrist for sexually assaulting a woman behind a dumpster because he had such a bright and promising future.

At first, Hayes calls the rape "horrific" and states that all the "justice system" offers a victim is retribution. If you are "lucky" enough to have your rapist prosecuted and convicted (and that rate is not very high); if you survive the grueling trial in which you, more often than not, are put on trial more than the perpetrator - your clothes, your attitude about sex, whether you are a "good girl" or not; all you get in the end is some prison time. Counselling? Yeah, hope you have good insurance, because you're going to have to pay for that yourself. All the baggage that comes with being raped, the feeling that you are never safe again, that the world is all fucked up and not like how you thought it was? Hope you can work through that, maybe, someday. Some of us cannot.

And then the train skips the tracks. Because Hayes gets UNCOMFORTABLY CLOSE to arguing that instead of Brock Turner getting more time (which I believe he should have), every other rapist should have a lenient sentence similar to Turner's because it will affect their lives. If someone rapes you? You should remember that they are a human being, that they need to be given what will make them better, that their life is precious, that they made a mistake and shouldn't have to really pay for it because it's society's fault.

Oh fuck you, Chris Hayes.


You have betrayed my tiny trust. :(

Also, at the end, Hayes relates an incident he saw occur at a park in New York City. A group of teenaged boys (who were of colour) were harassing people, cursing at them, etc. One of the boys stole a man's phone, and the man started chasing them to try to get his phone back. Hayes literally talks about just standing there, wondering if he should call the police, because he's sure that the person who called the cops on Tamir Rice felt like they were doing the wrong thing, and he doesn't want to see these kids end up dead because they're black.


First off, Tamir Rice was just playing with a gun-shaped toy. He did not COMMIT a crime - and these kids DID. Stealing someone's cellphone is a CRIME and the police SHOULD be called. What, if he sees a crime going down in front of him now, he's not going to call the police if the perpetrator is black? Is that what we are supposed to pull from this incident? If I see someone committing a crime in front of me, you better believe that I am going to call the police, and I don't give a shit if the perpetrator is black, brown, white, purple, green, or polka-dotted. It's a ridiculous end to a, quite frankly, ridiculous book.

Basically, what I think Hayes wants us to think after reading this book is:
1) Guns are bad. But not the people who use them to commit crimes. Those people are good. It's guns that are 100% bad.
2) If you see a crime happening in front of you, if the perpetrator is black, don't call the cops, because that makes you a racist. Or something. I'm not sure what he's trying to drive at here, to be honest, because it was just slapped on at the end and makes absolutely no fucking sense. Don't question it. Just don't call the cops.
3) If you (or someone you love) is a victim of a violent crime, just remember - it's all about the perpetrator. You don't matter. At all. You need to be more focused on the perpetrator and making sure he or she gets the help he or she needs. You, on the other hand? Fuck you.
Profile Image for Louise.
1,672 reviews301 followers
January 1, 2019
Chris Hayes develops the thesis that the US has evolved such that some live in a nation and others a colony. If you live in the nation, you receive the full protection of the Bill of Rights. If you live in the colony, your rights have been eroded such that they are similar to those living under King George being vulnerable to search and seizure, detainment without charge, excessive bail, etc

He develops this thesis not only from data and interviews, but also, most graphically, from his personal experiences of living in NYC, covering the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting and going to an elite university.

In the nation, the police system is set up for justice; in the colony, justice is secondary to preserve order. It is not hard to guess who lives in the nation and who lives in the colony.

When you live in the nation, being caught with marijuana (as Hayes was) can be ignored; or being caught in a rape can yield a 6 month sentence with a judge unabashedly noting that your promising career is a factor. When you live in the colony police can hold and fine you for minor traffic violations or intimidate you for sitting in your yard. In Ferguson Hayes sees the system defined in the Mike Taibe’s The Divide, that is blatantly set up to extract tolls from those least able to defend themselves.

Young people in the ghetto can party and wind up in jail, while those at universities who similarly make noise, take drugs and/or damage property, deal with campus police who (I did not know this) have their own judicial powers. They are set up to look the other way on behalf of parents with access to lawyers.

Hayes gives the best analysis of “broken window” policing I’ve seen. Did this system lower the crime rate? Does reversing it raise it?

This is more of an essay than a book. It should be widely read. I can see it part of a university curriculum on sociology, criminal justice or constitutional law.

Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,093 reviews17.7k followers
December 2, 2017
Well, considering I hate nonfiction, that was unexpected. A Colony in a Nation is some of the best nonfiction I've read this year. While it's quite short, this book's exploration of racism is lovely, well-analyzed, and super important. The audiobook does a perfect job conveying the righteous anger this book is written with, while not taking away from the fact that Hayes has a great point here. Would highly recommend for the takedown of white supremacy and fantastic writing.
Profile Image for Rachel.
7 reviews2 followers
February 7, 2017
Intensely readable and definitely worth your time. Hayes' thesis, that we don't have one criminal justice system with massive disparities but actually two distinct systems, which operate very differently, opens up some very interesting lines of inquiry. A thoughtful new take on a longstanding problem. Recommended.
Profile Image for Monte Price.
672 reviews1,838 followers
March 23, 2022
I want to thank Hayes for keeping me entertained while I got through the last few hours of my work day.

Outside of that, this is clearly an introductory text on the nature of policing, and makes several references to other well known texts on the subject that are probably just as worthy of my time as this was. Part history, part memoir, part essay? this was a good taste test on a topic. I wouldn't say that it was particularly specific, though broad in terms of the history presented and less position-y than I would have expected.

For those well read on this I say just skip on past. For those like myself who haven't read everything under the sun related to criminal justice reform this was a cute amuse-bouche of a text.
Profile Image for Barbara (The Bibliophage).
1,086 reviews151 followers
September 18, 2017
More reviews at TheBibliophage.com.

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!
Profile Image for Grace.
143 reviews416 followers
June 16, 2020
Please read this book. I gained so much knowledge and awareness from this one book alone. Racism is alive, and has been for a very long time it was just ignored by many white people. In this book Chris Hayes covers all the way from the war on crime, police brutality, playing to white fear, and more. The blatant difference in sentencing, treatment, etc between white and black citizens is completely outraging. Understanding law and order, and many other dynamics made this a very knowledgeable read. I will be recommending this to many many people.
Profile Image for Alisa.
397 reviews68 followers
October 15, 2017
Using the framework of the politics and mechanics of colonization, Chris Hayes offers a thoughtful examination of how the law and order rhetoric and policies in America today perpetuate racial and class inequality. Thought provoking and enlightening. Very well written, he is reasoned in his analysis, knows his history and has done his research. He is an educated guy, but writes without the academic hubris that sometimes comes with writers of a topic like this. He throws in a few personal experiences to illustrate his point in a few places which brings a tone of humility and personal awareness that lends weight to his credibility. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Gail.
1,063 reviews360 followers
April 14, 2017
“In the Nation, there is law; in the Colony, there is only a concern with order. In the Nation, you have rights; in the Colony, you have commands. In the Nation, you are innocent until proven guilty; in the Colony, you are born guilty.”—Chris Hayes

If you saw Ava Duvernay's Oscar-nominated documentary 13th, most of what you'll read in MSNBC reporter Chris Hayes' new (slim) book will be familiar—infuriating— material. In summary? It's DISGUSTING the ways this country has turned criminalization into its newest form of slavery.

My hope is that the more of us (white, black, doesn't matter) helping spread word about books and films like this—works that force us to acknowledge and study America's brutal intersection power and punishment—the better equipped we become to act as the generation that makes it stop.

PS —I don't want to leave out Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow". That one comes highly recommended and is also on my list!
Profile Image for Kelly.
383 reviews20 followers
April 5, 2017
Reading this book is—I imagine—like having a slightly coked-up Chris Hayes sitting next to you on a bar stool. He makes some good points, but they’re all shoehorned into a binary model (Colony v. Nation) which is far too reductive to be useful in any meaningful sense. Basically, the whole book is a personal meditation on the racial politics of policing; not unlike the commentary delivered nightly by Chris Hayes and others on MSNBC. I like Hayes, which is the only reason I read the book. That’s probably why it was written, too.
Profile Image for Erin.
43 reviews
April 2, 2017
This is an incredibly thought-provoking read. Chris Hayes provides a take on criminal justice I hadn't quite thought about before; it's compelling, especially for the white person trying to critically examine the role white people have played (and still do play) in contributing to social injustice. I highly recommend this to anyone interested these topics.
Profile Image for Paul.
716 reviews66 followers
August 14, 2017
On p. 210 of his excellent and insightful A Colony in a Nation, Chris Hayes asks the following series of questions that underlie arguments he makes throughout the book:

Imagine a person commits a crime, perhaps even a violent crime, against you. Is this person a human being? A neighbor, a fellow citizen? What do we as a society owe that person? Could he be someone you know and love in the throes of addiction? Or is he a member of a group you'll never encounter again? What dignity is due the perpetrator and the potential perpetrator? Do you and the perpetrator belong to the same country? This is the question before us. The question we've answered wrongly for too long.

Of course, the notion that Americans live in two different, largely monochromatic nations is not particularly new. But Hayes' argument goes a step beyond: that those nations can aptly be considered in the context of colonization – that white America is The Nation and black America is The Colony, and the former uses the power of the state to keep itself safe from, and thereby fomenting, the disorder of the latter.

For a TV pundit, Hayes is a good writer. He has a reasonable, conversational style that connects with the reader, and he writes in a way that should be able to engage those who disagree with him; he's not overly polemical, in other words. He brings first-hand experiences from reporting in Ferguson and Baltimore that lend weight to his arguments and provide him a measure of empathy for those with whom he disagrees.

There are plenty of incredible works about race and poverty that have been written in recent years, from a variety of perspectives – personal, sociological, journalistic, political. If I were to recommend a book on the subject to someone who believes that "All Lives Matter" and is mystified, if not fearful or angry, about the forces roiling our nation, I'd start with this one.
Profile Image for Nev.
1,109 reviews153 followers
November 10, 2019
3.5 - I thought this book made some good points and it was an interesting way to look at policing in the US. The idea of the Colony in the Nation does provide an easy way to conceptualize the differences between lower income, predominantly black areas (Colony) and higher income mostly white areas (Nation). In the Nation you hardly ever see police, but when you do they’re there to protect you, but in the Colony police are omnipresent and can pose a great danger to the inhabitants.

I agree with a lot of the points that Chris Hayes made in the book. However there was one part that I struggled with. I agree that the incarceration rate in the US is way too high, especially people with non-violent crimes shouldn’t spend as much time in prison as they do. However, Brock Turner was brought up as an example of how it’s not productive be outraged at his short prison sentence, that “level down” justice doesn’t help dismantle a racist criminal justice system. I just don’t really understand the point that Hayes was going for here. I think people should be outraged about a white guy only being sentenced to 6 months for a brutal rape and also the ways that non-white people are treated by the criminal justice system.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,378 reviews1,651 followers
September 18, 2021
This has been a bizarre year for reading for me. I have a book on my Currently Reading shelf that I've been "reading" since January. For the record (and posterity), it is now the second half of September. I have another book that I've been "reading" since July, and stalled out on. Both are really good, really interesting books, but I just have no desire to pick either of them up right now. I'll probably just chuck them both back on my TBR and try again later. Fresh start and all that.

THIS book though, I finished. Twice. It's only 5 hours long on audio, and I finished it in 2 days... back in July. And then I had no motivation to review it. And then it sat for 2 months, because I had no motivation to review it, and then I had a spark of motivation, but felt like I forgot everything in the book, so I listened to it AGAIN... and that was last week.


Anyway, I am "reviewing" this, even though it's less of a review and more of an exercise in excuse-making just to get it off my Currently Reading list. Which may trigger my stupid brain to allow me to read books again. I don't know.

I did really enjoy this book, and Hayes' perspective on the Colony vs the Country, and the differences in policing and justice (or lack thereof) depending on who is being policed and having justice applied. I highly recommend it.

OK, that's it. That's the review. I'm gonna go endlessly browse my library for something short and light and maybe kickstart my brain back into gear. Sigh.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 841 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.