NPR

In 'American Race,' Charles Barkley Is A True Believer In The Power Of Dialogue

In the new TNT docu-series about race, the former NBA star is mostly indifferent to the broader context of the discussions he's wading into — and to the limits of trying to "start a dialogue."
Charles Barkley and executive producer Dan Partland speak during the American Race Press Luncheon in May in New York City. / Theo Wargo / Getty Images

That "American Race," the new TNT docu-series about race hosted by Charles Barkley, manages to illuminate some truths about the way Americans talk about race is largely accidental. Over its four episodes, the impolitic former NBA star travels to different parts of the country trying to dig into racial controversies that have bubbled up locally; at each stop, his insights don't go much beyond platitudes about America being made up of people from different backgrounds trying to carve out lives for themselves.

That doesn't mean that "American Race" isn't revealing, in its way, about how Americans think about race. Barkley reminds us repeatedly that he wants to start a dialogue — which is all he reveals about his motivations for doing so. And like so many other self-appointed dialogue-starters, Barkley seems mostly indifferent

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