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Doug Robinson: 'Fab Five' documentary brings black racial divide into focus

Published: Saturday, July 4 2015 3:19 a.m. MDT

There is a racial divide in America, but it's probably not the one you think it is.

It's not just between blacks and whites; it's between blacks and other blacks.

That point was underscored in the new ESPN documentary, "The Fab Five," which tells the story of the Michigan basketball team of the early '90s.

In case you missed the controversy the film has ignited, Jalen Rose, one of the Fab Five and the show's executive producer, called former Duke star Grant Hill an Uncle Tom (and the B-word). Why? Well, as Grant himself explains it, "Jalen seems to change the usual meaning of those very vitriolic words into his own meaning, i.e., blacks from two-parent, middle-class families."

And that, apparently, is a bad thing.

"I hated Duke, and I hated everything I felt Duke stood for," Rose says in the film. "Schools like Duke didn't recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited black players who were Uncle Toms. I was jealous of Grant Hill. He came from a great black family. Congratulations. Your mom went to college and was roommates with Hillary Clinton. Your dad played in the NFL, and is a very well spoken and successful man. I was upset and bitter that my mom had to bust her hump for 20-plus years. I was bitter that I had a professional athlete who was my father that I didn't know. I was resentful of that more so than I resented him. I looked at it as they are who the world accepts and we are who the world hates."

It is revealing that Grant received a Twittered apology from Rose before the story even aired, according to Grant.

Some defended Rose by saying his quote reflects his beliefs as an 18-year-old. If he hadn't used the Uncle Tom reference he simply would be saying he desired such an upbringing for himself to the point of envy. Notwithstanding, Rose's statement reflects a division in black America. Nearly 70 percent of black children live in single-parent families and apparently that has fomented resentment toward blacks who embrace traditional families, education and success. To listen to Rose, it means they have done it to ingratiate themselves to whites.

All of this is self-defeating since single-parent families are widely believed to foster increased rates for crime, poverty, dropouts, etc. Single-parent families have become so matter-of-fact in black America that Antonio Cromartie, the New York Jets' Neanderthal cornerback, can casually and shamelessly discuss fathering nine children by eight women in six states and forgets to name one of them a TV interview.

"Rose voiced a sentiment that is found frequently in the black community," wrote Gary Cobb, a former NFL linebacker and current Philadelphia radio personality who authored 'Don't Be Clueless: 7 Keys to Life in the Real World.' "Many times African-Americans who try to live successful lives are hated and chastised by those of their own race. Rose's comments pulled the cover off of some of the poisonous attitudes which are dooming African-American youngsters who grow up without their dads, intentionally shun education, get in trouble with the law and go on to live their lives in poverty amongst crime and ruin. Rose basically called Grant Hill an Uncle Tom because he came from a two-parent family and his parents were both successful and well educated."

Cobb continues: "My dad forced all of my brothers and sisters to do well in school, but I hated it because of some of the other black kids in the school would call me an 'Uncle Tom' behind my back because I did my work and didn't get in trouble. Many of the black kids who went to my high school did bad on purpose because it wasn't cool to do well in school, if you were black. That's why (Rose's) comments about the black players on Duke's basketball program and Grant Hill in particular, hit home with me."

Cobb recalls how his father was treated with great respect by his black NFL teammates whenever he visited the locker room because Cobb talked about his father and because his teammates were surprised that he had a father-son relationship in his life.

"How could any black person in America criticize or disparage a black couple and their children because the couple got married and stayed together?" says Cobb. "I'll tell you that the No. 1 destructive behavior in black America is out-of-wedlock births."

Hill, like Cobb, also grew up in a traditional family. His father, Calvin, graduated from Yale and became a star running back for the Dallas Cowboys in the '70s before launching a successful post-football business career; his mother, Janet, graduated from Wellesley.

Hill, who plays for the Phoenix Suns at the age of 38, wrote an articulate, sharp response to Rose's comments in the film (available at GrantHill.com). It's worth reading. "To hint that those who grew up in a household with a mother and father are somehow less black than those who did not is beyond ridiculous," says Hill.

Hill embodies the American dream for whites and blacks. His grandfather and namesake was a laborer who could not read or write until his wife taught him. His first gift to his only child, Calvin, was a set of encyclopedias.

"He wanted his only child, my father, to have a good education, so he made numerous sacrifices to see that he got an education, including attending Yale," says Hill, who has been married for 12 years and has two children. "This is part of our great tradition as black Americans. We aspire for the best or better for our children and work hard to make that happen for them. Jalen's mother is part of our great black tradition and made the same sacrifices for him."

Somehow, all of that has been lost on a generation.

email: drob@desnews.com

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