Barkley interviews celebrities about race

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 30, 2005

NEW YORK (KRT) - What gives Charles Barkley the audacity to write a book about race in America?

"If I don't do it, who will?" Barkley retorts. "Y'all won’t let no poor black person write a book about black America. … I think it's more pure from my situation, because I'm rich. This little money they're paying me for this book is nothing to me."

When did Sir Charles ever need permission to be bodaciously outspoken? Remember his eight seasons as a Sixer? The words that came out of his mouth packed as much of a punch as he did on the court.

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Now, five years after Barkley's retirement from the NBA, a whole new generation of fans know him as TNT’s straight-talking basketball analyst and an author. His third book, "Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man?" (Penguin, $24.95), is a provocative follow-up to his 2003 New York Times best-seller, "I May Be Wrong But I Doubt It."

Teaming again with Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon, Barkley interviews 13 influential Americans - from Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to Tiger Woods and George Lopez - who speak frankly about race.

"I wanted the title to be 'Why White People Hate Me', but (the publisher) got intimidated," Barkley says with a mischievous grin.

Barkley’s complexity enhances his controversial nature. He’s a guy who refuses "to have my blackness disrespected," but has been happily married to a white woman for 15 years.

Barkley knows that no matter how many millions he makes or how much fame he acquires, in the eyes of too many people he is just another loudmouthed large black man from the projects in Leeds, Ala.

He hints that the only way he can derail that perception is by running for office. For governor of Alabama perhaps? As a Republican?

"Don't know," the Outspoken One demurs. "I'm not big on either party. But I sure would have a hard time running as a Republican."