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Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness

Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness

by John L. Jackson

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In this courageous book, John L. Jackson, Jr. draws on current events as well as everyday interactions to demonstrate the culture of race-based paranoia and its profound effects on our lives. He explains how it is cultivated and reinforced, and how it complicates the goal of racial equality. In this paperback edition, Jackson explores the 2008 presidential election


In this courageous book, John L. Jackson, Jr. draws on current events as well as everyday interactions to demonstrate the culture of race-based paranoia and its profound effects on our lives. He explains how it is cultivated and reinforced, and how it complicates the goal of racial equality. In this paperback edition, Jackson explores the 2008 presidential election, weaving in examples ranging from the notorious New Yorker cover to Saturday Night Live's political parodies.

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.)

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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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Basic Books
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5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

What People are Saying About This

Randall Robinson
"For those who are repeatedly wounded by racism, the prophylactic defense of 'paranoia' may be every bit as involuntary as it is practical. In his insightful new book, John L. Jackson Jr. renders a rigorous and fresh examination of the new axis of race relations in America."--(Randall Robinson, author of An Unbroken Agony: Haiti From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President)
Noah Feldman
"Brutally honest and brilliantly original, Racial Paranoia diagnoses an urgent problem: the suspicion and the reality of racism on the down-low. John Jackson takes us on a stunning whirlwind tour through a landscape peopled by everyone from Frederick Douglass to Dave Chappelle. The picture that emerges is of a new reality where race is everywhere and nowhere, seen and unseen, felt and ignored. Jackson's insight into what he calls the de cardio racism inscribed on American hearts is destined to make this book a classic."--(Noah Feldman, Professor of Law, Harvard University, author of Fall and Rise of the Islamic State)
Mark Anthony Neal
"Having an honest conversations about race is as daunting as it was a century ago when W.E.B. DuBois acknowledged the color-line as the defining reality of American culture. Never one to be discouraged by such challenges, John L. Jackson, Jr., once again puts conventional wisdom on its head with a smart, imaginative and humorous conversation about race in contemporary America. With the publication Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness, I suspect Jackson will become everybody's favorite public intellectual."--(Mark Anthony Neal, author of New Black Man)
Henry Louis Gates Jr.
"By listening to conversations about race and studying its endless iterations in popular culture, John L. Jackson, Jr., arrives at a nuanced and utterly convincing reading of how, when we talk about race, we pretend to talk about everything but race, and of how all of us learn to understand what's being said. This important new book will help us decipher and make sense of our national conversation about race."--(Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University)

Meet the Author

John L. Jackson, Jr. is the Richard Perry University Associate Professor of Communication and Anthropology in the Annenberg School for Communication and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Harlemworld and Real Black. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, American Anthropologist, and more. He lives in Philadelphia.

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