Kendale McCoy, center, a student featured in "America to Me."

Kendale McCoy, center, a student featured in "America to Me."

Starz/Starz

Steve James (Hoop Dreams) has a knack for boring in on specifics in order to unearth larger truths. In his latest, the Starz documentary series America to Me, he sets up shop at Oak Park and River Forest High School, a diverse school located in the picturesque, progressive Chicago suburb of Oak Park. As they follow 12 students, James and his team create a subtle look at the ways race is always bubbling just beneath the surface in an integrated environment.

Everyone in America to Me is well-meaning, which doesn't mean everything at OPRF is peachy-keen. Teachers openly admit the challenges of reaching all students; statistics suggest the small ways black students are set up to fail. It's those kids that make up the heart of the story. Always aware they're on camera, they navigate the social and academic byways the best they can, participants in a 21st century social experiment. At a time when many Americans would prefer to think race doesn't matter, America to Me, which runs through October, is a smart, empathetic reminder of who we are, where we've been and where we might be going.

What's Happening on GuideLive