Hugh Gerald Hanan
The former NBA player hopes to shine a light on race relations in America. But can the man who has come under fire for his own criticism of the African-American community do so?
Let’s talk about race.
That’s the message Charles Barkley is promoting with his new show, American Race, premiering Thursday night on TNT. The well-timed docu-series spends four episodes delving into the stories of everyday Americans while allowing viewers to see the country through their unique lens.
In each of the episodes, Barkley — who has sparked controversy over remarks made about the African-American community — works to draw a deeper understanding of the subjects he interacts with on the show.
“In this country, we don’t like to talk about race. But race gets into everything, whether we like it or not,” Barkley tells a crowd in Baltimore during the series premiere. His mission during this trip: speak to a community struggling to heal in the aftermath of the police-involved killings of Tyrone West and Freddie Gray.
Last year in the United States, 16 unarmed Black men and three Black women were victims of deadly force by the police, setting off a firestorm of emotions through communities across the nation. Lines were ultimately drawn, but Barkley hopes through candid conversation, healing on both sides can begin.
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In addition to discussing the growing tensions between cops and communities of color, the two-night event tackles the nation’s increasing fear of Muslims, the oft-overlooked concerns of the Asian community, and the racist rhetoric of the Alt-Right.
Although the nation rallied in 2008 and again in 2012 to elect the country’s first Black President, the series shows that for many minorities, the idea of a “post-racial society” seems to slip further away. Stories like Jordan Edwards’ no longer make the evening news, hate crimes throughout the nation are on the rise, and the President of the United States works tirelessly to impose a travel ban on Muslims.
American Race touches on it all. In a recent panel to promote the docu-series, CNN news analyst Bakari Sellers said, “My grandmother used to say ‘you can’t fall off the floor.’ For minorities, a lot of us feel like we’re on the floor.”
American Race airs Thursday and Friday at 9 P.M. on TNT.
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