By Kailei Richardson
November 4, 2008: the night that most of us will never forget. I bet we all can remember where we were when the votes came in and Barack Obama became the first Black president of the United States.
For me, I had just awoken shortly after touchdown in Dallas. “We did it! Your vote counted, girl!” was the first voicemail I received (from my mom) after I landed. I was still registered to vote in Illinois and since my absentee ballot I requested never arrived, I decided 48 hours before the election that I had to fly to Illinois to vote. There was absolutely no way I wasn’t going to be able to tell my children that I voted in the 2008 election. And even though I had a pretty good idea the democrats would take Illinois, I still wanted to make sure my vote was counted. And the joy that came over me when I selected “Obama/Biden” for my presidential vote made the price of the ticket well worth it.
I remember watching the votes coming in on CNN while I was on my layover in Atlanta that evening. I was on the edge of my seat, hanging on to every states’ results as they came in. But it wasn’t until I landed in Dallas that I found out the results. The poke on my arm from the person sitting next to me woke me up from my slumber. As I opened my eyes I was greeted by a CNN browser on a BlackBerry as the stranger in the seat next to me said, “He won!” And though I heard the words he said, I knew that from one brown person to another, he was really saying, “we won.”
As I walked into the DFW international airport, there was a group hovered around the hanging television at our arrival gate. Obama was giving his speech in Grant Park. As I watched him speak, it hit me. It consumed me. It overwhelmed me. As I thought about the meaning of this monumental election, I realized that I was a part of history. Arguably, no longer could race be a hindrance or a crutch. No longer could I, or my people, feel like there was anything we couldn’t do. The highest post in the land was now honorably occupied by someone who looked like me for the first time ever. And there I was, in the middle of gate 31C in the DFW airport, uncontrollably bawling my eyes out.
And here we are one year later. Has the triumph we felt that night continued? Do we still feel invincible? Has Obama’s victory changed the racial temperature for the better as many thought? Share your story and tell us how you feel.