According to Jackson, the main characteristics of racial paranoia are: “thinking about race and fearing racism that is immune to outward signs of racial acceptance and benevolence”, as well as being “preoccupied with insincerity, with our intrinsic ability to misrepresent inner beliefs, to misrepresent ourselves”. It develops from racism being a more secretive practice now and not being as out in the open as it was in past times. As Jackson puts it: it’s “racism with a poker face instead of a Klansman’s mask”. This means that it’s harder to tell today if situations are or are not motivated by race. One example of this is Congress Woman McKinney being stopped by a white security guard while going into a congressional office building. McKenna, the security guard, didn’t say racial slurs to her, he simply claimed that she didn’t have the congressional pin on that would show she belonged in that building. McKinney felt that she was racially profiled, that she was stopped due to the color of her skin.
Racial paranoia is a “post-racial” condition because it becomes more prevalent when racism becomes internalized and less explicitly displayed. This internalization of racism and racial paranoia stem from political correctness. The worry of saying something that could potentially make them appear racist has people being incredibly careful about what the explicitly say, and keeping things that may not be politically correct to themselves.
Another reason that racial paranoia is a “post-racial” condition is because of how many strides that have been made away from the racism of past decades and centuries; such as Jim Crow laws, segregation and outward discrimination, as well as “legalized second-class citizenship”. With all of these steps forward, or as Jackson phrases it “a precipitous climb out of a past steeped in explicit racial discrimination”, there’s always the fear of going backwards. Of returning to the way things were. Of all of the progress that’s been made being a smokescreen that will one day be lifted to show that nothing really has changed.
Jackson’s sense of what it would require in order to move beyond contemporary conditions of racial paranoia and racial inequality is allowing de cardio racism and racial paranoia to be acknowledged as existing so that they can be analyzed. After these issues are out in the open, people must be committed to solving them. As Jackson states, Americans must be committed to dealing with dealing with race and investing “their time and their trust in one another” if we are ever to move beyond racial inequality and racial paranoia.