Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness

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The Civil War put an end to slavery, and the civil rights movement put an end to legalized segregation. Crimes motivated by racism are punished with particular severity, and Americans are more sensitive than ever about the words they choose when talking about race. And yet America remains divided along the color line. Acclaimed scholar John L. Jackson, Jr., identifies a new paradigm of race relations that has emerged in the wake of the legal victories of the civil rights era: racial paranoia. We live in an age of...

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Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness The New Reality of Race in America

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Overview

The Civil War put an end to slavery, and the civil rights movement put an end to legalized segregation. Crimes motivated by racism are punished with particular severity, and Americans are more sensitive than ever about the words they choose when talking about race. And yet America remains divided along the color line. Acclaimed scholar John L. Jackson, Jr., identifies a new paradigm of race relations that has emerged in the wake of the legal victories of the civil rights era: racial paranoia. We live in an age of racial equality punctuated by galling examples of ongoing discrimination-from the federal government’s inadequate efforts to protect the predominantly black population of New Orleans to Michael Richards’s outrageous outburst. Not surprisingly, African-Americans distrust the rhetoric of political correctness, and see instead the threat of racism lurking below every white surface. Conspiracy theories abound and racial reconciliation seems near to impossible. In Racial Paranoia, Jackson explains how this paranoia is cultivated, transferred, and exaggerated; how it shapes our nation and undermines the goal of racial equality; and what can be done to fight it.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Calls for a conversation about race crop up persistently-as in the wake of the Imus scandal or O.J. Simpson's acquittal. Jackson's (Harlemworld; Real Black) examination of how race remains singular in American consciousness proves a lively opening gambit to a thought-provoking analysis. After a loose historical survey of race matters before the 1960s, when "brash and brazen American racism" was mainstream, Jackson focuses on the current state of affairs in racial fears and distrust that have gone underground and express themselves as racial paranoia and "de cardio" racism ("what the law can't touch, what won't be easily proved or disproved, what can't be simply criminalized or deemed unconstitutional"). Racial paranoia, not "just 'a black thing,' " owes much to the way mass media confirms or subverts stereotypes; de cardio racism is cloaked, "papered over with public niceties and politically correct jargon." Jackson explores particularly fresh areas in his illuminating consideration of The Man Who Cried I Amand 1996, racial paranoia's canonical texts and in his attention to the McCarran Act's effect upon black thinkers. Passionate and committed Jackson is, but his content is balanced. Casually scholarly and often witty, Jackson offers the reader "new ways of talking about race's subtler dynamic and new ways of spying racial conflict in the twenty-first century." (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Forty years after the heydey of the Civil Rights movement, blacks find themselves in a quandary, unable to deduce who is racist. So asserts Jackson (Communications and Anthropology/Univ. of Pennsylvania; Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity, 2005, etc.) in a rambling, repetitive text burdened by academic jargon. With lynching (almost) a historical memory and public use of the word "nigger" taboo, racial prejudice is now exhibited in more subtle ways that have given rise to a debilitating paranoia among blacks, he argues. Jackson cites as evidence media reports, publications by other academics and Internet chatter. In a wildly disjointed discussion, he revisits the saga of Dave Chappelle, who in 2005 famously walked away from a purported $50 million contract for his hit television show on Comedy Central. Jackson notes that Chappelle was driven to take a hiatus from his career after a white staffer laughed at a sketch he performed in blackface. The comic could not discern whether the staffer was laughing with or at him-a common conundrum for blacks at a time when political correctness reigns. The author also probes a 2006 conflict involving former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who was detained by a white Capitol Hill cop after bypassing a metal detector at her office. Successful blacks like McKinney, who alleged she was a victim of racial profiling, routinely evoke suspicion in halls of power, writes Jackson. He suggests that whites can help blacks conquer racial paranoia-he uses the phrase ten times on a single page-by making friends across racial lines, buying homes in diverse neighborhoods and avoiding predominately white day-care centers. Readers are likely to be stunned byJackson's revelation that some blacks feel they receive less cream cheese on their bagels than whites. A professor's lecture notes run amok. Agent: Andrew Stuart/The Stuart Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465002160
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 3/28/2008
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.91 (w) x 8.35 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

John L. Jackson, Jr., teaches at the Annenberg School for Communication and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America and Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity. His writing has appeared in numerous academic and popular publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, South Atlantic Quarterly, and the American Journal of Sociology. He lives in Philadelphia.

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Table of Contents

Preface     vii
Introduction: The Paranoid Paradoxes of Race     1
What Dave Chappelle Can Teach Us about American History     23
The Birth of Political Correctness and the White Man's Newest Burden     53
De Cardio Racism: Hunting for Racial Wolves in Sheep's Clothing     81
Racial Paranoia's Canonical Texts     111
Peter Piper Picked Peppers, but Humpty Dumpty Got Pushed: The Productively Paranoid Stylings of Hip-hop's Spirituality     139
When Everyday Life Becomes a Media Event     165
Conclusion: The Vulnerabilities of Multiracial Citizenship     189
Acknowledgments     215
Notes     219
Index     257
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2008

    A Reminder of the Persistence of Racism in America

    Few books offer as concise and cogent a review of the history of the African American in America as does John L. Jackson, Jr.'s RACIAL PARANOIA: THE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS. The Introduction to this elegantly written book mixes historical references to slavery and the variations of that horrific time in our history with subsequent alterations in the civil rights gains and losses, and leads into discussions of contemporary figures who influence the manner in which racism persists under different guises today. Jackson is both scholarly in his research and presentation while always maintaining a keen sensitivity to the reader's attention by including such well-known public figures as OJ Simpson, David Chappelle, Oprah Winfrey, President Bush, Eddie Murphy and other prominent political and entertainment figures. In that Introduction he outlines his own position by comparing Louis Farrakhan and Kayne West: 'Farrakhan and West epitomize 'hard' and 'soft' versions of what I'm calling racial paranoia: distrustful conjecture about purposeful race-based maliciousness and the 'benign neglect' of racial indifference.'' It is this 'progression' from blatant racism to the Politically Correct 'enlightened' racism that makes this book so valuable a read: the mirror is well polished to reflect a bit of each of our faces. Where Jackson succeeds in maintaining the extended study of the occult physical and cautiously spoken types of racism is his ability to build a solid platform of fact to post his suggestions of persistent behavior. Never lecturing to the reader, Jackson introduces a degree of humor that makes the contemporary trend toward total acceptance of color lines as entertaining as well as pungent. His writing style encourages the reader to stay with him through his arguments and the end result is an appreciation of a fine mind in action. In commenting on the media of today he remarks ' Media scholars have said it before and in many ways: the media constitute a productive force. They don't just passively represent the world they also craft it.' And in leading us to the position of at least acknowledging his postulates he is not afraid to ask the reader questions: 'Do Americans want to deal with race? Are Americans willing to invest their time and their trust in one another? At the very least, are they willing to see the racial disparities that continue to define important social and economic differences between and among the citizenry?' Jackson's book raises concerns, turns on lights, and makes us more aware of what he calls 'racial paranoia' - and there are very important lessons to learn from his wise little book. Grady Harp

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