Garden State Sees Obama Win Through Racial Prism

Black and white voters seem to view Obama's victory in different lights

The morning after Barack Obama's election as the nation's first black president, race still seemed to shape the way many New Jersey voters viewed the new leader.

African-Americans spoke of the sense of history and expressed hope that Obama's election will finally get America past race, while many whites spoke of their hope that he will change specific policies on the economy and the nation's two wars.

Laytona Blackshear, who works in a Trenton hotel, cried when she saw televised images of black and white people embracing each other in Chicago's Grant Park while waiting for Obama's victory speech early Wednesday morning.

"The best part was both races up there hugging and kissing each other," she said. "I loved that. It was a beautiful thing.

"I wish my grandparents could have been here to see this," she added. "They sacrificed so much for us, stopped going to school to take care of the family, so we could be here today."

Her co-worker, Deidre Lee, also of Trenton, said Obama's election let her release a pent-up tension and excitement.

"It was like, `We made it!' " she said. "It's something for our kids to look forward to. It was history. And we lived it."

Ron Kustrup, a retired white iron worker from North Hanover in Burlington County, chose Obama because he wants a new direction for the country.

"Everything is out of whack, from the economy and the stock market to the war," he said. "I just hope we give this guy a chance."

Nick Arico of North Brunswick appears to be just the kind of voter Republican John McCain could count on: the owner of a radiator shop, a Navy veteran with two children in the military. And yet Nick The Mechanic cast his ballot for Obama, making up his mind only after entering the voting booth.

"I'm just tired of the Republican Party; they didn't do a good job for the past eight years," the white businessman said.

"I'm for the military, and I don't think we should pull out of Iraq," he said. "But they didn't do their homework on the wars. They lied to the American people to get their agenda through. I have a lot of respect for John McCain, but I just don't think he would have done a good job."

Ronald Morgan, a black high school teacher from Irvington, said Obama's victory will give his students greater determination. Instead of giving up when they run into obstacles, they'll look to Obama's example and strive harder to overcome them, he predicted.

"It means a lot to the race in general because we've been put down for centuries," said Morgan, who was wearing a jacket with "Obama" painted on the back. "The ancestors are dancing in heaven right now. It's been a long time coming."

Newark Mayor Cory Booker said Obama represents "the highest aspirations many Americans have for our country."

"All of us should celebrate that the barrier has been broken," Booker said. "It shows that our country is more inclusive and more progressive in living up to its ideals."

Even in staunchly Republican, predominantly white areas, Obama found support. Maryalice Murphy of Mantoloking was getting her nails done in neighboring Bay Head, discussing how Obama inspired many young people and made them feel more a part of America.

"That's the best thing by far that came out of this," she said.

She said she supported Obama because "I thought he was more presidential. I pray that everything he said, he meant."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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