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No "Ifs" About It

I didn't really care that Detroit Free Press sportswriter Mitch Albom decided to go in on New York Jets defensive back Antonio Cromartie in a column the other day. Albom blasted Cromartie after the player admitted on HBO's "Hard Knocks" series that he has eight children by six women and then struggled to remember all of his children's names. Albom called Cromartie's segment "one of the most embarrassing video clips in sports history." And while I don't agree, Albom's predictable moralizing about Cromartie's irresponsibility wasn't an issue. Chances are, Cromartie really is a lousy father who spends more time making babies than raising them.

But what comes later in the column did irritate me tremendously.

Fathering kids as if you're watering plants is a growing problem in the sports world, particularly in African-American circles. And if we are going to talk about this issue, we need to drop our sensitivities toward this fact.

Pardon me, but what the heck does that mean,  "if we are going to talk about this...?"

Sorry, Mitch, but "we" have been talking about, and struggling with, this issue long before you turned on HBO. Black people certainly don't have any special "sensitivities" toward discussing teen pregnancy or out-of-wedlock births (and, frankly, I've yet to run across anyone of any color who really does either). Black folks don't scream "racism" when a young person has so many children he can't recall their names or when anyone chastises him for it. We think it's problematic also — though, in my case, less because he's unmarried than because he's immature. This is also why you don't see us turning these parents into reality TV stars or giving them cool monikers like "octo-dad."

Throughout our communities there are many African-Americans, prominent and otherwise, who've spent long years grappling quite publicly with these very problems, people ranging from Dr. Marian Wright Edelman to Faye Wattleton to the brothers in 100 Black Men. Likewise, there are also many white Americans, Latinos and others who dedicate every day of their lives to dealing with this matter, in schools, at health clinics and hospitals, in foster homes and in many other quarters. But Albom dismisses all of their work so he can wag a finger at some country-ass football player (who, at least for now, does have the means to care for his kids).

If we are going to talk about this issue...

No, people who really care about social and reproductive issues, "particularly in African-American circles," don't need to debate whether to "talk" about this. There's no "if." They, we, have been talking. And no one needs to "drop" any make-believe "sensitivities" just so a columnist can feel better about his trite hectoring, either.

Cromartie's actions are irresponsible and the social implications are certainly bothersome. But so are suggestions that "we" somehow need Mitch Albom to teach us about honest dialogue.

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