The Grio published an opinion column yesterday asking this: “Do black men prefer their women larger?”

Weighing in was Milton Kent, a former sportswriter at the Baltimore Sun who hosts “Sports at Large” on WYPR in Baltimore and is, as it happens, a friend of mine. Kent, for the record, is black. And the Grio is a news site aimed at an African-American audience.

Before he started writing – setting out, impossibly, to speak for everyone of his race and his gender on the question of what constitutes beauty – Kent floated the question on his Facebook page, saying he needed help with a “sensitive subject.” Sensitive is one word! As he recounted in his post, “the aftermath was like watching people running from a burning building as if their hair were on fire.”

None of his friends had much advice, save for “good luck,” though one did offer this: “I have no answer Milton, but if you can find that out, then also find out why white men DO NOT want a plus sized women. Inquiring minds want to know.”

When I called him this afternoon to ask him about the assignment, he immediately conceded: “When they threw it at me, the first thing I thought was ‘Why me?’ and ‘Why this?'”

To those questions, I add a less diplomatic one: What was that editor thinking?

In his post, Kent discusses Maria Sharapova (thin, blonde, and a “favorite of the overwhelmingly white fanboy sports blogosphere”), Serena Williams (“any discussion of Serena Williams has to begin with her backside, her black, her African, derriere,” he quotes the author of Don’t Play in the Sun: One Woman’s Journey Through the Color Complex, Marita Golden, as saying) and, briefly, his own wife (she “isn’t built like a supermodel,” a fact he says he appreciates).

But I’ll give away the ending: He doesn’t answer.

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