When TNT announced it had commissioned a documentary series about race relations in America hosted by Charles Barkley, I balked. Though Barkley has been a sports commentator for more than a decade, his “hot takes” on race continue to lack substance and nuance. I mean, Barkley is the same man who dismissed the Black Lives Matter movement; agreed that George Zimmerman should have been acquitted for killing Trayvon Martin; and claimed “there’s racism on both sides” and we “never get mad when Black people kill each other.” Watching him lead a conversation on race was the last thing I wanted to see. But TNT recently released the trailer for the basketball legend’s upcoming docuseries, and I have to admit, I’m intrigued.
According to the network, in American Race Barkley will travel “across the country to explore the issue from different angles and engage in thoughtful but spirited dialogue with a diverse cross section of Americans. He brings with him a truly ambitious goal of building the kind of mutual understanding that can lead to productive solutions.”
Spread across two nights–and four episodes–American Race will head to Baltimore to talk about the uprising in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death; interview law enforcement officers to get their take; discuss racism in Hollywood with Ice Cube; and Barkley will speak with those in the Muslim community to understand how they’re feeling given the rise of Islamophobia across the country.
Barkley’s goal is to spark a conversation on race, but his need to “tell both sides” of the story may lead to false equivalencies and surface-level conclusions that don’t investigate the real root cause–systematic racism and inequality.
Whether or not Barkley reaches his goal in American Race remains to be seen, but I might just be watching–even if it makes me upset.
Check out the trailer for American Race.
American Race will air over two nights – Thursday, May 11, and Friday, May 12 – with two episodes each night at 9 and 10 p.m. (ET/PT). In addition, TNT will offer a preview of the first episode on Sunday, May 7, at 11:30 p.m. (ET/PT), following the network’s coverage of the NBA Playoffs.