4/25/17

Chris Hayes: A Colony in a Nation {REVIEW}

 

I've been following Chis Hayes for many years now. I think the first place I saw him was as a guest on Rachel Maddow, and I liked him pretty much right away. I was a bit slow at picking up his first book, Twilight of the Elites, only reading it last year, but I'm glad that I did. It was an impressive book - with no shortage of factoids and little tidbits to make me nod, or shake my head in frustration and/or disbelief. His newest book, A Colony in a Nation continues to highlight Hayes as a highly intelligent writer with a knack for examining some aspect of our society with refreshing perspective and honesty.

In A Colony in a Nation, Hayes examines our nation's criminal justice system, with a specific look at how race comes into play within this system, and our society as a whole. He suggests that race and our criminal justice system divides our society into two parts: the nation, which is comprised of white citizens, and the colony - comprised of black citizens. Through statistical analysis, exploring the works of others and his own vast knowledge, he gives a brief history of how our criminal justice system has worked both for, and against our citizens. Hayes addresses the significant inequalities and conflict that have arisen within our society - stemming from the relationship between race and our criminal justice system, highlighting recent events which have brought this conflict to the forefront of many conversations, such as Ferguson and the 2014 death of Michael Brown.

Throughout the book Hayes ties the present to the past rather well and I can certainly say that I learned a lot about our past as a country that I'm sort of ashamed to admit I did not know (I will confess: I don't have as great a knowledge of history as I would like). As someone who majored in Sociology, I really enjoyed this book and the way it examined our criminal justice system, racism, and overall conflict within our society, but I think that this is a book anyone could enjoy - and which, everyone should read. I wouldn't describe it as a book which forces you to think in any particular way, but which provides you with facts and background and forces you simply, to think. It forces its readers to consider their own privilege and circumstances, and the environment in which they reside. I appreciate that it is not a book that comes off as overly biased in any one direction, but rather is a book that challenges the reader without berating them or trying to force them into any particular line of thinking. It certainly made me angry. It made me feel wildly frustrated (a feeling that I'm all to familiar with, which I think is hardwired into my personality). It made me think about a lot of things.

The book highlights what I would consider to be significant flaws in our criminal justice system, and left me wondering how, if ever, we are going to fix such a one-sided operation? The issues that exist within this system directly and significantly, impact how society as a whole works. Unfortunately, I would say that I don't believe we are poised to reform any of these issues currently, but I hope that in the future, we can begin to change the mechanisms that allow for the colony, and the nation to exist in such vastly different worlds.

A Colony in a Nation is a book I would urge all to read. It's a quick read and it left me feeling energized to learn more. In all honesty, I enjoyed it even more than Hayes' first book and it makes me excited to see what he comes out with next (no pressure or anything! ^_^)!