A Colony in a Nation by Chris Hayes
  Book Reviews    October 2, 2017     Eric Larkin

 

Imperialism is alive and well inside the United States.

In A Colony in a Nation, Chris Hayes draws out a parallel between the American colonies under British rule and the current situation of those of lower income – predominantly people of color – in the United States. It’s amazing – and terrible – how well it lines up.

The nation refers to those who, because of their economic status and color enjoy the protections of the law and the benefits of a “free” society. The colony includes those who, because of their lack of socio-economic status, must be controlled in the interest of “order” or the appearance of order. It’s why, for instance, a black man selling individual cigarettes will be smothered to death by police officers while a young, white, college student gets nothing more than an arched eyebrow for carrying a huge bag of weed into the Republican National Convention. This was an incident that happened to Hayes himself during his college years – when he absent-mindedly forgot to take the weed out of his backpack before going to the event. This one dumb little thing turned out not to be a huge deal for Hayes, whereas if it had happened to a young black man, it could easily have ruined his life: arrest, criminal record, possible expulsion from college, later trouble finding work, and all the rest of the dominoes that usually fall for people of color. Bringing a large stash of weed into a political convention is certainly a crime, but Hayes was just a dumbass college student, so the powers-that-be cut him some slack. The man selling cigarettes, maybe he couldn’t afford a proper tobacco retail license (not to mention a storefront); he was just trying to make a few bucks. Maybe he was shabby-looking, loud – oh, and black – so in certain parts of town, he made people feel uncomfortable. Since he wasn’t serving the purposes of those who don’t need to sell individual cigarettes just to get by (“purpose” sometimes being no more than making the well-off feel at ease) – he was removed (in this case murdered). Citizens are human beings with rights; colonists are means to an end – their goods/services/resources are desired – demanded, in fact – but they themselves have no voice, no rights, no power. Just like in the colonial American mantra “no taxation without representation”, we even see this inequality thru our current taxes, with tax breaks and loopholes for the wealthy and corporations, while the disappearing middle class carries every ounce of their tax burden. Increasingly, even our politicians – representatives meant for regular folks – are bought by those with money. These are the two entities: the colony of expendable worker drones and the nation of elite citizens. It’s exactly what was happening in the American colonies, until our forefathers (real patriots, not the kind who march around with nazi and Confederate flags) said, “You will no longer enrich yourselves at our expense.”

Hayes goes into great detail, especially with the events in Ferguson, Missouri, including his own experiences there. He covers law enforcement theories, such as “broken windows” policing, and the divergent histories of punishment in the US and Europe. This is a fascinating read, and you will likely find its conclusion personally challenging.

 

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