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The thing about race, Charles Barkley says, is we talk about it only when something bad happens and tempers are high, and so all we do is shout at one another across a chasm that's wide and getting wider. The rest of the time we try to pretend that the chasm isn't there. The way to get real about things, Barkley demonstrates in this book, isn't to shout and point fingers, but to expose all the hypocrisy and phoniness that keep us from talking about the way things really are, and even to find the humor in all the crazy disconnects and misunderstandings between the different races in America. It's time someone did, because things aren't getting better, as he's here to show us. Racism has just gone underground: Sure, celebrities like him get the white-glove treatment, but in the meantime, we're living in a country that's growing steadily more racially segregated. If you're white, what are the odds you live or work with a significant number of black people? The odds are low and getting lower. When news of the Kobe Bryant case broke, 70 percent of whites polled thought he did it; 70 percent of blacks polled thought he was innocent. What's that about?, Charles Barkley wants to know. Until we learn to see into one another's minds and hearts a little more and, crucially, to laugh with one another, we're just going to keep living the lie that racism has gone away just because it's out of plain sight.
Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man? is part rant, part personal story, and part investigation: Barkley sounds off on a wonderful range of issues relating to the subject, from interracial love to affirmative action to real estate to racial stereotypes, and he relates personal stories from his own life experience. He also goes across America to see for himself where the country is with race, talking to students in Ann Arbor about affirmative action, sitting down with the Grand Dragon of the Alabama KKK, and drawing in many other famous Americans to talk about race in their own lives and lines of work.
Frank, funny as hell, explosive-everything we feel we can't say but it really is high time we did. Only Charles Barkley, and thank heaven for him.
From the inimitable Charles Barkley, author of The New York Times bestselling I May Be Wrong But I Doubt It, comes a frank, fearless, funny, and explosive look at the reality of race and racism in America today
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"Racism," Charles Barkley says, "is the biggest cancer of my lifetime. And I know I can't cure the cancer, but doesn't somebody have to attack it?" Barkley's means of attack in Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man?--not surprising from one of the most outspoken athletes of our time--is to break past the taboo of race by talking about it in the open. What might be surprising is that Barkley steps aside and lets other people talk, too. While in his previous bestseller, I May Be Wrong but I Doubt It, the former NBA MVP and current TNT commentator held forth on a wide variety of subjects, for his new book he sought out a baker's dozen of leading figures in entertainment, business, and government (and yes, one athlete) and sat down with each for a frank conversation about race.
Of course race is not a simple topic, and each discussion heads in its own direction. Tiger Woods speaks both of his biracial identity and of how moving it was to see the black staff at Augusta National lined up to see him put on the green jacket as Masters champion. George Lopez talks about the pressures of creating a breakthrough Latino sitcom in an almost all-white industry. Film producer Peter Guber surprises Barkley when he says that he made The Color Purple out of economic self-interest, not idealism. Many of the discussions turn, like Guber's, not to traditional civil rights but to economics, which Rabbi Steven Leder calls the real "last taboo subject in America." It's clear that the audience Barkley most hopes to reach with this book is the young black men and women that he and many of his interview subjects are concerned about. "We're losing," activist Marian Wright Edelman tells him, "and if we don't stop this trend, we're going to be headed back to slavery." Barkley's celebrity subjects can provide some models for success for those readers, but one also hopes Barkley can continue the conversation by turning the spotlight on those struggling with the problems of race outside the sometimes protective glare of fame. --Tom Nissley
Who's Afraid of Talking to a Large Black Man?
Throughout his career, Charles Barkley has always been willing--quite willing--to call it as he sees it, making him one of the most quotable athletes of his era and, many have suggested, a future political candidate. He's as happy talking issues as talking hoops, and for his new book, Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man? he sat down for conversations across the country about the troublesome topic of race in America. We had our own conversation on the subject with Sir Charles: Read it to find why he wrote the book, what he tells his own biracial daughter about race, and why he thinks sports can be a model for race relations.About the Author:
Charles Barkley is a studio analyst for TNT's Inside the NBA¸ a regular contributor to CNN's TalkBack Live, and a frequent color commentator. Named one of the fifty greatest NBA players of all time, he was selected to eleven All-Star teams and won the NBA's MVP in 1993.
Michael Wilbon is a Washington Post sports columnist and the co-host, with Tony Hornheiser, of the ESPN show Pardon the Interruption.
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