“American history,” he writes, “is the story of white fear, of the constant violent impulses it produces and the management and ordering of those impulses. White fear keeps the citizens of the Nation wary of the Colony, and fuels their desire to keep it separate.”
He doesn’t develop this notion systematically but that he names it at all, and so bluntly, is significant. Indeed, the long-term value of this book probably will lie less in Hayes’s survey of “the new Jim Crow” system that Michelle Alexander has described than in his nascent effort to confront and counteract the underlying force of white fear.
Hayes suggests that fear is not just an aspect of white identity; it is the very reason for it — that whiteness in America was constructed and is still maintained, through power structures such as the criminal justice system, to dominate people defined as nonwhite and to control the resulting anxiety about the possibility of rebellion.