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A Colony in a Nation

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  5,846 ratings  ·  814 reviews
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 Ric
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 6th 2018 by W. W. Norton Company (first published March 21st 2017)
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Average rating 4.20  · 
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Bill Kerwin
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20th-c-amer, politics

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
J.L.   Sutton
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 persp ...more
Diane S ☔
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 show ...more
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
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 compell ...more
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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 th
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
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 les ...more
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 bon
Jessica Sullivan
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 syst
Conor Ahern
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 receiv
Stacy Bearse
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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 h ...more
May 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 sh
The Pfaeffle Journal (Diane)
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 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
Dec 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-read, usa, politics
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 ...more
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 e
Elle (ellexamines)
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. ...more
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 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. ...more
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 directl
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
More reviews at

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 t
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 experie ...more
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 p ...more
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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 int
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-read, nonfiction
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. ...more
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: race, politics
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 pe
Nov 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 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
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was transformative for me. I have known, more so lately, that our country suffers from deep-rooted, systemic racism. But while I knew it was here (and has been here since our very beginning), I didn’t really understand WHY. What is giving it staying power?

This book, for me, laid it all out there. It gave the whys, and the hows.

This book is essential reading for every American, especially those who don’t think racism is a modern-day problem. Racism might not look the same as it did in
This was a very interesting take on specifically how the criminal justice system works differently for the white majority and the Black people, and Chris manages to draw a line between policing in historical times (right from the days of slavery) to contemporaneous practices, and how this historical context plays into who gets branded a criminal and who gets multiple chances for redemption. The author also gives a critique of how much politicians use the rhetoric of law and order to drive up big ...more
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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 K ...more

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“White fear emanates from knowing that white privilege exists and the anxiety that it might end.” 20 likes
“There are fundamentally two ways you can experience the police in America: as the people you call when there's a problem, the nice man in uniform who pats a toddler's head and has an easy smile for the old lady as she buys her coffee. For others, the police are the people who are called on them. They are the ominous knock on the door, the sudden flashlight in the face, the barked orders. 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.” 7 likes
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