What do you think?
Rate this book
272 pages, Paperback
First published March 21, 2017
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.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.
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.
...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."
“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.
“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.
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.
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.