Black residents in Dallas reflect on Obama’s victory

08:49 PM CST on Wednesday, November 5, 2008

At the Hickory House barbecue joint on South Industrial Avenue, $2.99 will buy you two eggs, hash browns, two biscuits, gravy and a ham steak fried up so nicely you won’t want to tell your doctor about it.

This morning, all that came with a large helping of talk about an election that, at least in the early glow of Tuesday’s historic returns, could change nearly everything about the way customers and the Hickory House staff alike look at America and at Dallas.

“We’re going to have a lot of that debate all day long,” said 71-year-old cook Frankie Hicks, who smiled through his neatly trimmed gray beard when he said Barack Obama’s election has been on his mind since he rolled out of bed early this morning.

For many Dallas residents, especially African-Americans, this morning dawned on a city and country that looked somehow different, and more hope-filled.

“I woke up this morning with some pep in my step,” Mr. Hicks said. “It’s like I have been holding my breath underwater all my life, and now I can finally breathe.”

It wasn’t only that Americans, including large numbers of white Americans, had just elected their first black president. But Dallas, a city not always known for racial harmony or progressive politics, had enthusiastically backed Mr. Obama’s historic ascendancy. Unofficial returns show that Mr. Obama outpolled John McCain in Dallas County by a 57-42 margin, with about 1 percent voting for others.

“I always thought Dallas had the potential to do what’s right, but sometimes it didn’t live up to that promise,” said 29-year-old Eddie Jones, who said he was tired from having barely gotten to sleep Tuesday.

“But last night — that is going to give young people in this city a focal point, something to look forward to as an example of what diligence and dreams can lead to.”

This was the first time Dallas County supported a Democratic candidate for president since Lyndon B. Johnson won in 1964. The margin for the ticket of Mr. Obama and Joe Biden was almost 115,000 votes —- more than 10 times the margin that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney enjoyed here four years ago.

Dallas schoolteacher Esora Evans, 63, said she always believed — on a spiritual level — that God would answer the prayers of civil rights leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers.

“But I didn’t expect to see it myself,” she said. “I did know that God uses people in his own way, some to plant seeds, others to nurture them. And then some will reap the rewards. I just didn’t know that I’d be alive to reap the rewards.”

The Mesquite resident said she remembered hearing Dr. King and the slain Kennedy brothers talking about a vision of racial harmony. That long-deferred dream, she said, has been fulfilled.

“I already knew I was an American. I didn’t need last night’s election for that,” she said. But the vote helps her know that others in this city feel that way, too.

For Mr. Jones’ part, he said he has spent the past 12 years as a dancer trying to use his art to convey a message of racial harmony and self-respect. From now on, he said, he’ll have more to point to than just the words from long-gone civil rights leaders.

At a doughnut shop in Cedar Hill, acquaintances Greg Oden, 46, and Wayne Bess, 31, discussed what this year’s historic election meant to them.

“Now we can tell our children that you, too, can be the president of the United States of America,” said Mr. Oden. “What the Founding Fathers said is now a reality.”

Mr. Oden, who recorded last night’s news coverage for posterity, said he didn’t believe his 15-year-old son comprehended the significance of Mr. Obama’s victory because he has not faced racism first-hand and considers the civil rights movement “ancient history.”

But for 17-year-old Adrian McCowan, youth was no obstacle to understanding the power of Tuesday’s results. The teen was carrying to school the same big blue sign that had stood in his yard throughout the long campaign, the one that read OBAMA BIDEN 08.

The sign, he said, was a way of showing respect to his newly elected president, for whom he has high hopes.

“Definitely change – I know that much … a difference in society, I guess a lot of change,” he said. “I feel like there’s a lot more possibilities for me now. I can be anything I want to be.”

Adrian’s friend, Jasmine Callahan, also 17, said she cried when she learned Mr. Obama had won.

“I was relieved that there would be change,” she said, especially since she has two brothers in Iraq now. Mr. Obama’s victory speech, she said, “made me feel like they were coming back sooner.”

She said she had long envisioned a day when America would elect a president with the same color skin as hers.

“I thought I would see a black president, but I thought when I was older, in my 30s or 40s.”

For years, she and her friends, including Travun Watts, have been told anything is possible. Last night, those lines became real, they said.

“It’s no longer just a white America now,” Travun said. “You can actually see it now. He beat McCain. Nobody expected there would be a first black president.”

At a Target store in Cedar Hill, co-workers were rehashing last night’s news.

The election made America seem new, and somehow different, said Darius Howell, 20.

“We’re happy. When I heard Obama won, I was happy to come to work. It’s like a new country,” Mr. Howell said.

“A lot of black people are going to step up now. I’m going to go back to school to make something of myself. It’s hope.”

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: