It seems like the folks at TNT wants to give their most charismatic and controversial sports analyst, Charles Barkley, an elevated soapbox far beyond realm of talking NBA basketball. The Hall of Famer, who once considered a career in politics, will finally get the chance to discuss social-political issues now that Turner has green-lighted the provocatively titled series, ‘The Race Card.’ Barkley has always been a purveyor of sharing his own uninhibited truths even at the expense of offending his own [black] community. Moreover, Barkley will be able to disseminate his personal unfiltered rhetoric aided by several “cultural leaders and tastemakers” which will sure to embody what certain people “should do” or “how to behave,” as an underlying tone.
An excerpt from Turner.com’s press release:
In The Race Card, Charles Barkley wants to bust up the echo chamber mentality that so often has people retreating to corners of the like-minded, where views are reinforced and ideas are distorted into angry, unexamined groupthink conclusions. Each week, Barkley will take on the rapidly calcifying positions around today’s hot-button topics. He will seek out the sharpest and most varied viewpoints from today’s cultural leaders and tastemakers. He will then challenge and probe those ideas, even trying them out on himself.
No idea presented on The Race Card will be left in the abstract. Barkley will put ideas on their feet, with real-world proof-of-concept tests that will engage people and expose the truth behind their closely held beliefs. In the end, Barkley will reach his own conclusions guided only by his own wits and common-sense wisdom.
“We as Americans never discuss the issue of race in this country and how it impacts everything in our lives until something bad happens,” Barkley said. “I see this project as a way to talk about race, class and cultural differences and challenge everyone’s status quo.”
I often wonder the fascination the media has had with “Sir” Charles Barkley for quite some time now. Sure Barkley has an engaging and colorful personality, but he has the media’s “darling” and a go to magnet when discussing social issues—most notably when it comes to race relations. In the past, Barkley has openly discussed the usage of the rousing ‘N-word’ and how he uses the word amongst his black –and white—friends. In an episode of Barkley’s Inside the NBA, Barkley defended his usage of the ‘N-word’ following a tweet sent from [then] L.A. Clipper forward Matt Barnes, after an on-court skirmish involving Serge Ibaka, of the Oklahoma City Thunder. “Matt Barnes, there’s no apology needed,” Barkley lamented about the racial slur used by Barnes on Twitter. “I’m a black man, I use the N-word with my black friends–with my white friends—they are my friends, Barkley said. The “Chuckster” as called by his fellow colleague and Inside the NBA moderator, Ernie Johnson, continued his on camera soliloquy and made mention of what white America shouldn’t dictate:
“This debate goes back to the Paula Dean thing where they’re like ‘Well, black people use it amongst themselves, it’s in rap records.’ Listen, what I do with my black friends is not up to white America to dictate to me what’s appropriate or inappropriate.”
This is exactly the kind of frankness and candor many should come to expect from Sir Charles, which has made him a polarizing figure. Unfortunately, some of his remarks hasn’t fared all too well either especially when it has do with African-Americans. Barkley has stated on record that he makes no apologies when it came to what he calls the “dirty dark secret” in black America, during an interview with Anthony Garano in 2014:
“Well unfortunately, as I tell my white friends, we as black people will never going to be successful not because of you white people—but because of other black people. When you’re black, you have to deal with so much crap in your life from other black. It’s a dirty dark secret, I’m glad it’s coming out (…) You black kids, you know, when they do well in school, the loser kids tell em’ ‘Oh, you’re acting white,’ to the kids who speak intelligently. Oh, you’re acting white…”
-Barkley on 914 WIP Philly Radio, 10/23/14
Needless to say, the proverbial “cat was let out of the bag” on black America much to the distaste to some, but to the agreement (yours truly) of others. Barkley also spoke unfavorably about the riots in Ferguson by stating “those aren’t real black people” and he later added more fuel to the fire by calling them “scumbags.” Barkley has since recanted his original sentiments but not before many in the black media and blogosphere labeled him a “sell-out” and an “Uncle Tom.” Even Houston’s own from the legendary rap group, “The Geto Boys,” Willie D, came out of nowhere to address Barkley and others in a song entitled, “Coon.”
Lastly, I don’t think Turner is looking for some “kumbaya” movement with Sir Charles leading the charge. Rather, they’re looking to cash in on what will be considered a “reality-based” program tackling hot button issues. I believe Barkley will definitely have some controversial contemporaries such as the likes of Stephen A. Smith, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Roland Martin and a slew of others. This will definitely be an early ratings riser due to the impending anticipation of provocative dialogue surrounding race, politics, and social issues. All in all, let’s hope for lasting viewer sake—and Barkley’s—this show doesn’t end up being ‘Teerible.’ Peace and love y’all!