Growing up as a young black child, I could run really fast but couldn't get any jobs. So I saw a specialist, changed my skin color to white and -- even though I lost a little foot speed -- it's been Beach Blanket Bingo ever since!

I also figured out, after several years of sampling the gay lifestyle, that I'd better go straight if I wanted to get any real work in the hurly-burly world of sports.

Ah, welcome, dear readers, to this week's column, tentatively titled "He Said, She Said: Fisher DeBerry Talks the Talk, Sheryl Swoopes Walks the Walk."

(Note: The first two paragraphs of the column are fictitious. They exist solely as a dramatic device to lure innocent passersby into the general vicinity of my ramblings. And if you're reading this sentence, well, it worked.)

DeBerry expressed thoughts that were regrettable, and immediately defended; Swoopes expressed a sexuality that remains closeted, and often derided. Both story lines tell us that, in 2005, America still can't quite get it right.

This is what DeBerry, the Air Force football coach, said last week after his team lost, 48-10, to TCU:

"It's very obvious to me the other day that the other team had a lot more Afro-American players than we did, and they ran a lot faster than we did. . . . Afro-American kids can run very, very well. That doesn't mean that Caucasian kids and other descents can't run, but it's very obvious to me that they run extremely well."

On ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption," The Post's Michael Wilbon said: "The politically correct police would go into hysteria to say this guy has anything to apologize for. Nothing to apologize for, as far as I'm concerned. . . . He didn't say anything out of place."

Wilbon and co-host Tony Kornheiser -- incidentally, Wilbon is the younger one with the shaven head, Kornheiser is the older one with a few strands of hair left from his distant youth -- both pointed out that blacks indeed are faster than whites, so what's the big deal here?

The big deal is this: DeBerry did say something "out of place," and it has nothing to do with being politically correct. Because of what use is this dialogue on which race is fleeter? What exactly is the point of attaching characteristics to various groups? Does it make sense to figure out if blacks are faster or slower than whites, smarter or dumber? Where does this lead us?

Wilbon tells us that DeBerry simply said what everyone knows or thinks. Well, why are we even thinking this? What is gained by generalizing about particular groups, whether it be ethnic, religious or racial?

This is a road well traveled in America, which, frankly, has worn out its welcome.

Which brings us to the sad case of Swoopes, the WNBA star forced to live a public lie for years for fear of being ostracized and losing professional steam.

Swoopes announced she is gay in an interview with ESPN the Magazine. She might as well have announced she is a black woman, too.

For if you are born female, black and gay in America, that's three strikes against you before the umbilical cord is even cut.

Women? We didn't give all of them the right to vote until 1920, and 85 years later, how many women truly have beaten us fellas at our own game? Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey, maybe, and heck, we made Martha do time in the joint.

Blacks? Oh, please. See Plessy v. Ferguson. Gays? If I were homosexual, I wouldn't come out of the closet even if there were a 50-inch plasma screen, a cooler full of Rolling Rocks and a gaggle of Chippendale dancers just on the other side of my rack of leather chaps.

In fact, if I were brought into this world black, female and gay, I'd head straight from the maternity ward to the Galapagos Islands. I figure I'd get a better shake from the tortoises there than the people here, plus the Galapagos are virtually crime-free, so I wouldn't have to worry about outrunning any assailants because, man oh man, I guarantee you I'd be the slowest Afro-American on the island.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Do you think Pete Carroll should return to the NFL? (Jon Baker; Silver Spring)

A. No. In the NFL, he's already proven he's not good at coaching a pro football team against other pro football teams; at USC, he's proven he is good at coaching a pro football team against college teams.

Q. What contribution to society do you bring to the fore by announcing the World Series of Poker? (David Winters; Sarasota, Fla.)

A. Well, for one thing, I'm not announcing the World Series of Beer Pong.

Q. Will an NBA player being led into a courtroom in handcuffs be in violation of the league's new dress code? (Steve Witchley; Seattle)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. If the NFL adopts an NBA-style dress-code policy, would the Minnesota Vikings be required to wear a suit and tie on their next boat trip? (Rusty Preece; Houston)

A. Ring this guy up too, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. E-mail and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!