I always do my best to be honest and see no reason to end that fact at the present moment. So I am being totally honest when I say that I rushed to judgment when I heard that Charles “I am not a role model” Barkley would be hosting a show titled The Race Card, set to premiere in early 2017.
I immediately thought, and partially still do, that there is no possible way that Charles Barkley being provided a national platform to speak on racial matters is a positive for either African-Americans or the nation. According to producers, The Race Card will examine the deep political divisions in American culture in an effort to discover why Americans are so divided along political and racial lines. According to Barkley, “We as Americans never discuss…race in this country, and how it impacts everything in our lives, until something bad happens…I see this project as a way to talk about race, class and cultural differences and challenge everyone’s status quo.”
Although I remain unconvinced that Barkley is the best, or even a suitable, choice to lead this nation in any discussion regarding Race, I must again be honest and say that I actually appreciate the idea under girding the show as it could do much to illuminate an American citizenry that knows little, if anything, about Race in America beyond superficial emotionally driven ‘analysis’ that has repeatedly failed to scratch the surface of the socially constructed issue that noted scholar W.E.B. Du Bois warned the entire nation would be its problem of the twentieth-century in his classic work The Souls of Black Folk.
Those who have tried and failed to understand America’s complex racial issues should not fret over the matter because they have much company. The vast majority of Americans have absolutely no understanding of even the myriad pieces that factor into either American race relations or an all too loosely used boogie man known as racism. Most individuals, regardless of their Race/ethnicity, simplistically believe that the primary cause of America’s racial problem is due to some ‘rival group’ and thereby is definitive proof of their comprehensive ignorance regarding the reality that other factors including, but not limited to, class, gender, sexual orientation, and social status, impact American Race relations in phenomenal ways. Indicative of this nation’s infantile understanding of Race is the startling reality, as displayed by their propensity to use them inter-changeably, that an overwhelming percentage of Americans do not know the difference between prejudice, discrimination, and racism.
One thing is certain, until Americans develop the intellectual acumen to understand Du Bois’ ‘Color Line’, it will continue to agitate the entire nation.
I am certain that most hope that Barkley’s The Race Card will move the dial toward creating a path that will ameliorate this nation’s greatest curse, I hold those hopes as well. Unfortunately, I have little faith in Barkley’s ability to engage, analyze, and offer any semblance of a solution in regard to this pressing matter. I hope I’m wrong, however, I seriously doubt it.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016