Non-Swimming Black, Latino Stats Rattle Bloggers

A recent Tell Me More conversation about why swimming isn't so popular among African-American and Latino children inspired listeners to blog about possible reasons behind such apathy. One blogger, a black woman in her 30s, who recently learned how to swim, thinks she knows part of the answer. Also, a working mom tells of her struggle to strike healthy a work-life balance, following the show's recent chat about the subject.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now it's time for Backtalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get a chance to hear from you, our listeners.

Lee Hill, our digital media guy, is here with me as always. Hey, Lee, what's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel, happy Friday.

MARTIN: Thank you.

HILL: Well for starters, there was lots of feedback to our conversation about why black and Latino kids are far less likely to be competent swimmers than white kids. Now according to USA Swimming, 58 percent of black kids and 56 percent of Latino kids cannot swim compared to only 31 percent of white kids.

Now, we talked to Jodi Jensen, who leads the aquatics department at Hampton University, a historically black university in Virginia. Now Jodi is white, but most of her students are African-American, and Jodi talked about the reasons her students told her about why they have not in the pool to that point, but we decided to put the question out on the blog. So why don't more minorities swim?

And that prompted listeners to share their stories and theories. Here's Kyra(ph).

KYRA: I'm a 33-year-old African-American woman, and I'm proud to say that I just learned to swim. If I did not have natural hair, I may not have ever learned to swim. In my experience, it is impossible to swim without getting your hair wet.

When I talk to other African-American women about learning to swim, they often say, I would love to learn, too, but what will I do with my hair? Perhaps if it became more acceptable to wear natural hairstyles, more of us would feel comfortable in the water.

MARTIN: Thanks, Kyra, and congratulations for getting in that pool. Good for you. Speaking of staying afloat, Lee this week we learned about a professor at George Washington University here in Washington, D.C., who's trying to help young women learn early about maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Professor Kathy Korman Frey joined our moms segment this week along with one her students, Alicia Buford, and our regular parenting contributor, Leslie Morgan Steiner, who wrote a work-life blog for the WashingtonPost.com.

And they were sharing their knowledge about basically how to keep it all together. Val(ph) called to tell us about her own struggle to strike a healthy balance.

VAL: I've been dealing with work-life issues since I was married 10 years ago, and I started a family about eight years ago. As a 38-year-old career mom, I feel so much pressure to succeed at work and at home, yet there are no resources for training or support for my husband or me.

I have been taught about how I can have it all, but with three kids and a career, I'm often overwhelmed with the daily choices, not to mention the pressure to not let anyone know how hard it really is to do this. I would feel like I am letting my gender down if I don't succeed.

MARTIN: Wow, Val, thank you so much for calling. Lee?

HILL: Michel, now switching gears completely here, before we go, I want to flag the spirited discussion online sparked by a story on race relations in Cuba. Now on the program, we talked about the little-discussed racial divide between Cubans in exile here in the U.S., a group that's largely white, and those still living on the island, many of whom are darker-skinned or black Cubans.

Now blogger Devon(ph) posted this. This is a great topic in a silent issue that runs deep in the Hispanic community, not just in Cuba. Black Hispanics have always had to deal with racism and colorism issues in their venues. White privilege and white racism has no boundaries or firewalls.

MARTIN: Thank you, Devon, and thank you, Lee.

HILL: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And remember with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more about what you think, you can call out comment line at 202-842-3522. That number again, 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. You can also log onto our Web page, where you'll find even more feedback on our segments. Go to npr.org. Click on TELL ME MORE and blog it out.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: Coming up, you know how they say in Washington, if you want a friend, get a dog. Well, President Obama finally listened.

President BARACK OBAMA: Now, the only concern we have is apparently, Portuguese water dogs like tomatoes. Michelle's garden is in danger.

MARTIN: The Barbershop guys talk politics and Bo, the Obama family's new dog. That's just ahead on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

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