Black Male Violence, Gay Marriage Hot Topics

Earlier this week, Tell Me More continued its coverage on a disturbing study that found young black males in the U.S. killing and being killed at a growing rate. In the latest BackTalk, the program's approach to discussing the statistics is challenged. Also, hear strong opinions following a conversation about an interesting debate brewing in the gay community: whether gay marriage is the right fight, for right now.

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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 as usual. Hi, Lee.

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Well, before we get to our listener comments, we've got an update on the story we did back in October. This was the discussion about whether the missing persons' cases of African-Americans, who are actually more likely to be reported missing their members than other groups, receive the same level of attention and support from law enforcement and the media. We talked with Darnel Fernandez - he's the brother of a young South Carolina woman who was missing - about the toll disappearance takes on love ones.

(Soundbite of NPR's Tell Me More, October 27, 2008)

Mr. DARNEL FERNANDEZ: Every corner you try and you're looking, thinking, wondering, not knowing - just it's hard to cope with. It would be a whole lot better for us if we just knew. No matter what the situation is, we'll be better off knowing instead of not knowing.

MARTIN: Well, Lee, we have some sad news to report. Authorities told the family of Aretha Marie Fernandez that there is 99.9-percent certainty that remains found in the woods this week are hers. She leaves behind a five-year-old son. Authorities have interviewed the person of interest, but there has been no arrest. Our condolences to the family. Lee?

HILL: And Michel, a conversation we had this week about the rising number of murders of young, black men in the U.S. got strong attention on our blog. We spoke with two mothers: Sylvia Banks and Karen Graham. Both of them lost teenage sons to gun violence, and we also spoke with community activist Ron Moten. But then we heard from Hamad, who disagrees with all the focus on race.

HAMAD (Listener): I do not want to discount the fact that racism is still a reality in a structural sense and prejudice, a reality on an individual level, but when it comes to crime and violence, it is best to dissect the issue along class lines rather than race. If we keep talking about black teens getting into trouble instead of poor teens getting into trouble, we will not reach any viable solutions. Let's please stop pretending that we live in a classless society or that black people are somehow a class on their own.

MARTIN: Thanks, Hamad. And again, our coverage on this will continue, and we're interested in your thoughts and perspectives. Moving on, Lee. Gay marriage, is it the right fight for right now? We had a conversation about this interesting debate that's been brewing online and in the gay community about whether other issues deserve as much or more attention as gay marriage.

HILL: Well, Michel, here's our listener Don's perspective on gay marriage; I'll read his note.

(Reading) All I know is after 13 years of being with my partner, this matters most to me. Honestly. I don't care for hate-crimes legislation, I'm about equal rights, not special protections, but the way I figure it, marriage is the Holy Grail. When we are afforded the same legal protections as other committed couples, everything else will fall in place in short order.

Thanks, Don.

MARTIN: And Lee, we also heard from Christa, who has a different perspective.

CHRISTA (Listener): The whole idea of the marriage ceremony does reek of upper-middle-class whiteness, and the whole notion is very far removed from where I came of age, in San Francisco's glorious gay ghetto of the '80s. Our community is and has always been divided by gender class and race in some capacity. We're not one dimensional, and that's a good thing.

HILL: Thanks, Christa. Well, Michel, finally we've been celebrating the winter season a bit differently around here, exploring the fun beverages with our Winter Sipping series. Now, yesterday, for those who might not know, you left me here and ran out to indulge in some chocolate drinks to warm your own palate - that's OK; I forgive you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HILL: At CoCo Sala, a local chocolate bar here in D.C. Well, listener Melanie called to share with us her own Winter Sipping favorite.

MELANIE (Listener): Our family's favorite wintertime drink is something we call Christmas tea. and you mix a whole canister of Tang Breakfast Drink with about half a jar of instant iced tea, clove, cinnamon, a touch of nutmeg, and I hope you'll enjoy it some time.

MARTIN: Well, thank you, Melanie. Yum. Thank you, Lee.

HILL: Thank you, Michel. And listeners can find our sipping favorites, all of them, on our Web site.

MARTIN: And remember, with Tell Me More the conversation never ends. To tell us more about what you think, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. That number, again, is 202-842-3522. Remember to leave your name, and of course, you can also go to the Tell Me More page at npr.org and blog it out.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: And the Barbershop guys are next on Tell Me More from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

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