Racism Experiment: Charlie


A self-described racist, Charlie first met with Dr. Phil because he was struggling to accept that his daughter, Virginia, was pregnant with a biracial baby. His racist ways were tearing the family apart. He knew it was time to make a change, but how do you overcome a lifetime of hate-based thinking? Dr. Phil wanted Charlie to spend some time with an African-American family to challenge his beliefs. Charlie stepped up to the opportunity.

Many viewers offered to open up their hearts and their homes to Charlie, but one person volunteered his time and his family to help Charlie learn about African-American culture. George Wallace is a comedian with a unique sense of humor on how different races can all get along. He offered to take Charlie under his wing and show him around his neighborhood.


George meets Charlie and whisks him away to church. The ride there is all laughs as George cracks one joke after another.

After church, Charlie says, "At first it felt like all the eyes were on me. I soon discovered that that was not the case. I feel like I was very welcome. I enjoyed meeting George's family and his friends. The spirit and the camaraderie of the people here gave me a little different outlook than I had before."


After church, George's family members welcome him into their home. Charlie sits down for a conversation with one woman. "I've said some pretty bad things in my life that I'm pretty embarrassed about," he tells her.

"Racism and prejudice, well, it's a lack of knowledge," she says. "If you're ignorant and enjoying it, that's stupidity. And that brings on racism, that brings on prejudice, all those things. Personal experience will give you enough knowledge about how you want to interact with people."

Charlie gives the blessing before the meal and they eat, laugh and tell stories. 


Before he leaves, a woman makes him "an honorary soul brother" for having the courage to join them and bridge that gap.

"If the police pull you over, you know it's working!" jokes George.

"I want to thank y'all for letting me come out and be a part of this, and may I continue to learn," says Charlie.  


Next, George takes Charlie to the Laugh Factory, where he's performing. Charlie fully enjoys himself. "I've never laughed so much in one day," he remarks.

George also took Charlie to meet some of his friends in the neighborhood barbershop. They get haircuts, tells stories and laugh.

Charlie reflects, "George has shown me how black families want the same things that I do and there's really no difference. Skin color doesn't matter to me anymore. I've gained a better understanding that black people are just like white people — we're people. We all need to get along, and everything will work out fine. I'd like to tell Dr. Phil that I really appreciate the opportunity that he has given me to see things in a better light because it's not going to do anything but make my relationship with my granddaughter that much stronger."


George and Charlie join Dr. Phil to discuss Charlie's experience. "He was totally open-minded and he had a good time," says George. "In church he felt comfortable, and certainly, he enjoyed eating. I've never seen anybody eat that much in my life before," he jokes.

"You've taken a really good and positive approach to saying you've got to use laughter to lighten people up so you can open them up. And that's worked really well for you, hasn't it?" observes Dr. Phil.

"The bottom line is you've got to laugh it off," says George. "Life is too short."

"I had a blast," says Charlie about his experience.

Dr. Phil reminds Charlie about some of his previous hateful, racist comments. "What you said was, 'I know at a cognitive level, I know intellectually that it's not right, but it's just been stuffed into me since the time I was a child.' Is that changing with you?"

"Oh, absolutely. My eyes are open now," says Charlie. "I don't really see color anymore. Before that was the first thing that I saw and it just clicked. Now it doesn't matter."

George's family's spirituality moved Charlie. He says he experienced, "A feeling of warmth, togetherness, willingness. They didn't look at me like I was any different than they were."

"Is that something that you want to feel in your family?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Oh, yes. I hope we can get along like George's family got along. That just made me tear up. It was great," he says.

Dr. Phil clarifies that obviously eradicating ingrained racism takes longer than just one weekend, but Charlie's willing spirit definitely helped the process of learning. Dr. Phil asks Charlie if it seems strange to look at George's family — an African-American family — as a role model for his own.

"If my family could get along like this family did, I just can't imagine where we could be," says Charlie. 


Charlie's daughter, Virginia, has since given birth to her baby, Isabella. Cameras were there when Charlie greeted his granddaughter for the very first time.

"Any apprehension I had, the minute I saw her face, it was gone," says Charlie. "I'm just flabbergasted. It's another grandchild. I just feel like a papa. The color, I can tell right now, it's not going to make a lick of difference. I think my daughter's and my relationship is worked out now. If she'll let me help, I've got a lot of work to do to help her and help Isabella and start off where we left off nine months ago. I think things will be fine. I'm just thoroughly impressed. I'm sure I love the baby. I believe she and I are going to be in good shape. I guess it's safe to say this is a good beginning. We've got a good, long future ahead."


"I'm very glad to have my dad back in my life," says Virginia. 


"Tell me why you have tears in your eyes," says Dr. Phil.

Charlie, choked up, says, "The love I feel. I just picture her and it just seems like everything else doesn't matter."

Virginia and baby Isabella join them all on stage. Dr. Phil holds the

baby. "Is she not the cutest thing you've ever seen? Just absolutely gorgeous."

About her father, Virginia says, "He's come a very long way from where he was and it'll bring a stronger relationship between those two in the future."

"I don't think that racism is a simple thing to overcome. I think that it is deeply ingrained in America. When we get to be adults, we get to make new choices. And it's never too late to make new choices," he tells Charlie.


Dr. Phil thanks George for opening up his life and welcoming Charlie.


"You're more than welcome," says George. He presents Charlie and his wife with airline tickets and hotel accommodations for a trip to come see George perform in Las Vegas.