photo & text by nacrowe
in his book A COLONY IN A NATION (NORTON, 2017) THE NATION editor / MSNBC host CHRIS HAYES deliberates on the historical, political and cultural roots of our bifurcated justice system in which in-group/out-group dynamics related to race have fundamentally defined the AMERICAN experience. his basic argument is that one of the root causes of said bifurcation is that extent to which the power and influence associated with WHITE FEAR has been at the helm of both policy and implementation of our criminal code.
and, in essence, we are all culpable. ALL OF US.
i think the power of HAYES argument lies within his own self-examination as a PRIVILEGED, EDUCATED WHITE NEW YORKER who benefited from gaps in the universal application of criminal codes. whether such be innocent infractions regarding marijuana use and possession at college (or the NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONVENTION) or his benefiting from CONTROVERSIAL "BROKEN WINDOW" policy in BROOKLYN and the rapid reinvestment that has defined the hyper-gentrification of the borough in the last two decades. at the core there is this latent assumption that the push and pull, ZERO-SUM of AMERICAN democracy and our style of CAPITALISM is that all the benefits i enjoy come at the expense of someone else's maltreatment and denied opportunities. and that is a bitter pill to swallow. it is a dynamic that HAYES struggles with throughout the book. the extent to which WHITE FEAR subconsciously internalizes the majority of our decisions regarding public SAFETY, ORDER and even criminal REHABILITATION.
denying others their status as citizens of the realm has been backed into our culture going back to the first ENGLISH colonies on the eastern seaboard. subjugation of others was a defining characteristic of the colonialists definition of success. and that has yet to change. through our criminal justice system we seek to SECLUDE and PUNISH those that have trespassed our laws, denying them their humanity and any opportunity at realistic REHABILITATION. what does that say about us as a country? as a people? are we all AMERICANS or is that an adjective that necessitates further qualification? because the implementation of said laws and moral codes is more tied to a continual system of "haves and have-nots" than any universal prescript. its all a fraud.
or so it seems. i wrestle with this sort of question all the time living comfortably and quietly in suburbia. the only disorder i see is dogs barking out of control on the FOURTH OF JULY or perhaps some lost STATEN ISLAND driver moving erratically on the parkway. who am i trampling on? what SYSTEMS OF OPPRESSION am i unwittingly supporting and REINFORCING through mindless CONSUMERISM. i appreciate HAYES forthright self-examination and it has resulted in me doing the same.