Chris Hayes on How Police Treat Black Americans like Colonial SubjectsBreaking News
tags: racism, policing, internal colonialism
“American criminal justice isn’t one system with massive racial disparities but two distinct regimes,” writes MSNBC host Chris Hayes in his book, A Colony in a Nation. “One (the Nation) is the kind of policing regime you expect in a democracy; the other (the Colony) is the kind you expect in an occupied land.”
I spoke with Hayes by phone on Tuesday to discuss the parallels between the policing regime America’s founders rebelled against and the one black Americans currently face, why presidents who shout “law and order” the loudest are often the most flagrantly unlawful, the role of public humiliation in fomenting social revolution, the militarization of America’s police forces, and much more.
A transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity, follows.
The story we’re often told about the American founding is one of a rebellion against unjust taxation. You tell a very different story in the book. To what extent were the founding fathers rebelling against a version of police brutality?
Obviously the American Revolution was complicated. But I think in the telling of that history we focus on taxation and not the means through which taxes were collected. Taxation then meant tariffs applied to goods that were being imported or exported. And the way that tariffs were collected at the time was customs enforcement, which is essentially policing. Officials would literally search the ships for how much tobacco or whiskey was on board.
That creates what I call in the book “the first generation of stop and frisk.”
Editor's note: The concept of "Internal Colonialism," particularly as applied to policing, was extensively elaborated by scholars and activists in African American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Native American and other freedom struggles in the 1960s and 1970s.
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