"America is a nation of laws."

They've all said it: Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Obama. And it sure sounds good!


But what does that mean?

As MSNBC's Chris Hayes points out, lots of countries have laws. That doesn't necessarily mean that you or I (or our presidents!) would describe them as free, democratic, just, or even fair.

There's the "rule of law."

And then there's equal justice under the law.

Meaning that all people can expect the rules to be applied to them in the same way as their fellow citizens. The same way ... regardless of their skin color or ethnicity, gender, how much money they have, who they're related to, what religion they practice, who they vote for — or who they criticize.

Does America have both?

When the people who crashed the economy walk free but millions serve jail time for low-level offenses, it starts to feel like maybe we don't. When black Americans and white Americans have vastly different experiences of being victimized instead of protected by police, it seems like maybe the law isn't being applied equally.

In this passionate, short segment, Chris Hayes explains why he's beginning to doubt that America can still claim one of its most admired, cherished, and beautiful ideals: that we're one nation, with equal justice for all.

Maybe only for the powerful.