Race, Love and Pain Had Listeners Buzzing In 2009

Tell Me More host Michel Martin and Lee Hill, the program's "digital media guy," comb through listener feedback and share some of the topics that had listeners speaking out the most in 2009. Hear how conversations on racial identity, domestic violence and even romance captivated the Tell Me More virtual community and compelled listeners to share deeply personal stories from their own life experiences.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now let's go to 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, or digital media guy, is here. Hi, Lee. What's up? Happy New Year.

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Happy New Year to you. And now we're going to do a little year in review, Backtalk-style. And it has been an extraordinary year in politics and in pop culture. We saw the historic election of Barack Obama as the nation's first black president, and we talked a lot on this program about his presidency is shaping the national dialogue on race.

Well, of course, we took that debate online, and you might remember this comment from Troy.

TROY: We should stop calling ourselves African-Americans. It diminishes us and makes us some kind of sub-class of American. We don't call the average white person a European-American. Instead of us calling ourselves African-Americans and having an us-against-them contest, we should just call ourselves American.

MARTIN: Okay, well, thank you Troy once again and all those who've weighed in over the course of the year. Lee, carrying us into the spring was the disturbing story of R&B super-couple Chris Brown and Rihanna, who became the poster children for domestic violence after Brown battered Rihanna shortly before the Grammy Awards.

He ended up pleading guilty to a felony assault charge. We had a number of conversations about how the story of Rihanna and Chris Brown is, sadly, a common one, and many of you wrote to tell us your stories.

Back in April, we heard this from Lisa.

LISA: I have a two-year protective order against my abusive ex-husband. I left after he strangled me and threatened to take our two-year-old and 11-month-old twins away so that I would never see them again.

My denial was lifted, and I ran with my three boys. We have been divorced for seven years now, two more physical abuses during this time, the last time a year ago, leaving me with three bulging disks in my back and a concussion.

HILL: Now, Michel, I'm always amazed by the personal stories that people share with us. For instance, earlier this year, we reported on racial disparities in the foster care system, with black youngsters more likely to steered into foster care than their white counterparts.

After that story, we heard this personal story from Callie(ph).

CALLIE: Having been in foster care most of my life, emotionally, it destroyed me, completely destroyed me. I'm not fully healed yet, but I'm working on it, and I have a wonderful husband and wonderful children who are supporting me and trying to help me get past a lot of the emotional issues that I had.

MARTIN: Well, it is good to hear how love is helping Callie heal, and Lee, we were also delighted and sometimes amused to learn more about our listeners' love lives. Yes, with everything going on in the world, we did manage to squeeze in some romance stories. Not all of them were happy, but hey, we tried.

In September, we talked about how many black women might be scoring high grades professionally but batting low in the love department. Our focus came from a Yale University study indicating that black men are more likely to marry outside their race and black women outside of their educational achievement levels.

We received lots of feedback on this story, including this note from Pamela. Pamela wrote: I am 47, have a master's degree and have been single for seven years. Have I given up on black men? Not at all. If that was the case, I'd be giving up on my four beautiful sons, who I know will bless some lucky woman. I won't ever discount a brother because his life path didn't include college.

HILL: And Michel, we all remember Lazlo. He talked to us back in October, following our report on how success in the online dating world tends to favor white men and women overall.

Now, that research came from the online hook-up site OKCupid. Now, Lazlo told us how, like Pamela, he's also not throwing in the towel.

LAZLO: I've tried online dating on and off for some time now. In all honesty, I have to say that black women are the least likely to write me back. Now, for instance, I've been on blackplanet.com a few times, and I figured I'd have better results there. The majority of women who replied back to me and even initiate correspondence have always been white. No, I have not given up on black women.

MARTIN: Hmm. Maybe Lazlo and Pamela - well, never mind, never mind. We'll work on that later.

HILL: Well, the TELL ME MORE matchmakers, that's a good way to bring in the new year, right?

MARTIN: I know. I think - I like it. Remember, with TELL ME MORE, the love connection never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. You can also log onto our Web site. Go to npr.org. Click on Programs, then on TELL ME MORE and blog it out.

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