Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

The Quotable Black Scholar: John L. Jackson, Jr.

October 2nd, 2008 by Ajuan Mance

Professor John L. Jackson

The difference, say, between Don Imus and an even racier shock jock like Howard Stern pivots on how the latter talks almost obsessively about race. Even if you don’t believe he’s an equal-opportunity misanthrope, you could never listen to Stern’s broadcast and think he’s hiding (for better or worse) his ultimate feelings about race. He seems to put it all on the air. You might find his comments sexist and racist; he might make your blood boil; but you don’t feel like he’s hiding something. It is that fear of the hidden vis-à-vis race and racism that racial paranoia breeds upon, a fear that is related, but not reducible, to fears about racism, per se. It is about not knowing, not being sure. We don’t want everyone to try to be Howard Stern, but his comedy (at its best) promotes a kind of multiracial gesture toward honesty that hinges on his ability to say things that others are afraid to say. It unflinchingly demands a certain commitment to seeing race, even if it is a way of seeing race that is all the more frightening for its easy deployment of traditional racial stereotypes.

–John L. Jackson, Jr. in Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness (212)


Biographical Notes: John L. Jackson, Jr. is the Richard Perry University Associate Professor of Communication and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. He holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from Columbia University. He graduated from Howard University summa cum laude with a B.A. in communications in 1993. Prior to joining the faculty at the Annenberg School, Jackson was an associate professor in Duke’s Department of Cultural Anthropology. Before that he was a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard University.

Jackson is the author of three books. They are: Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness; Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity; and Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America. He has also produced several award-winning films and documentaries.

Dr. John L. Jackson, Jr. was born in Brooklyn, NY. He blogs at Brainstorm: Lives of the Mind on The Chronicle of Higher Education website.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in African Americans, Annenberg School, Current Events, Higher Education, John L. Jackson, Jr., race, Uncategorized

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