Blacks Elated, Incredulous after Obama Win

Eli Saslow and Jonathan Mummolo, Washington Post, June 5, 2008

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The final reality of Obama’s victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton, predestined for weeks,

still struck Obama’s supporters — young and old, white and black, the believers and the

skeptics — with the sudden weight of history.

For some black Americans, the impact of his win reached into the improbable, registering

as a shock inconsistent with a lifetime of experience. Adrian Cheeks, 45, from Falls

Church, had considered Obama’s candidacy a “chance in hell — snowball.” Mildred Taylor,

80, from Los Angeles, was convinced she’d never see a black president in her lifetime.

Reveling in Obama’s historic achievement, a California man planned a cemetery visit to

share the news with a dead relative. Others taped Obama’s picture to their front doors.

Many considered the possibility of a black president with a woman for his running mate

and marveled at how drastically the world had changed.

‘We’re getting there’

“I’m amazed that we’ve grown up,” said Crystal Hill, 31, an African American who lives in

Northwest Washington. “We’ve still got a long way to go, but we’re getting there.”

For Tamim Rahim, 21, of the Chantilly area, Obama’s ability to fight through one of the

most bruising nomination battles in history, combined with the historic obstacle of his

ethnicity, proved the candidate’s mettle.

“Quite honestly, when Obama first started, I didn’t think he was going to go too far,”

said Rahim, who is of Afghan descent. “I know 100 years ago no one would have thought an

African American would get this. . . He went through a lot of difficult obstacles. . . I think he’s made his point. In my mind, he’s won his battles.”

But for some, looking ahead to Obama’s remaining battle against John McCain, skepticism

still lurked: Could this really happen again?

“It does say something about how far the country has come along,” said Cheeks, an

information-technology support technician. “Now comes the real test. You still have a

core group of Americans who will not vote for him because of the color of his skin.”

Many of Obama’s younger supporters chose a more hopeful outlook. In downtown Washington,

Becky Ogunwo, 20, handed out brochures about environmental issues and gushed, “We’re a

much more diverse country in our thinking now.” Donte Frazier, a 32-year-old local cook,

talked about “a moment of hope.” Keisha Brown, 21, from Chicago, whose mother has a

nightgown with a picture of Obama on it, said, “Everything will be different now.”

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For Obama’s supporters, the mere taste of history made them antsy for more. They said

Obama has built the perfect coalition to defeat McCain: young Americans, black Americans,

college-educated Americans — all voting in record numbers, and all inspired.

“Obama was very successful with bringing in so many new voters,” said Maury Tobin, 39, a

white communications consultant from Port Tobacco, Md. “If they came out and voted for

him in the primary in record numbers, they’re going to come out again in the general.

That’s going to put some states in play for the Democrats that they never imagined would

be there.”

And if all goes according to plan, Obama supporters said, there will be a lot more

history to celebrate.

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