'New era' for some as Biden is sworn in, but fear and suspicion still divide communities

January 21, 2021

Champagne flowed at a bar in Atlanta, Georgia, as they whooped and hollered their approval through the US inauguration ceremony being held hundreds of miles away in the capital.

Some wore hats festooned with US flags, others had scarves emblazoned with the Stars and Stripes draped over them.

A four-year-old girl waved two little flags excitedly as the adults spread out amongst socially-distanced tables watching the ceremony on a specially-erected large television outside.

Inside, in every room, TVs were booming out the ceremony to everyone. This was the city's drinking hole for the victors - and they were ready to party - even in COVID times.

"Today is the beginning of a new era," said Timothy Young. "Now we've changed hands we feel our voices as black people will be heard during this time. This gives us a little more hope."

His companion April Anderson added: "I feel renewed, refreshed, elated."

Georgians were pivotal in voting Joe Biden into the White House. Voters here turned out in their droves to overturn a Republican stronghold with a massive increase in the African-American vote.

This followed years of suspicion, mistrust and investigations which showed that tens of thousands of mainly African-Americans had been disenfranchised in the past.

So, it's not surprising victory tastes sweet here. Kelsey Nix had tears running down her cheeks as she sat at the bar, listening to the man she helped elect talk about unity and a fresh start. "I was crying through relief," she said.

In the kitchen, head chef Stanley Barnes said the whole kitchen had been celebrating. "It's been a rough four years," he said. "I'm hoping things are going to get better now."

But there's an acceptance not all the deep-seated problems are going to disappear. "We still got really big challenges," the general manager Steven Pitt said.

"There's been a lot of hate over the past few years. And some of those people haven't just gone away. They're still there. We just have to stop these white supremacists getting into power ever again."

The lingering tensions across the nation are evident at every state Capitol building which have all been fortified in the wake of the riots in Washington on 6 January.

In Atlanta, they'd positioned Humvees at the top of the Capitol building steps and police sniffer dogs were busy circling the perimeter.

Across the city, a few miles away from the bar celebrations we spoke to a group of Republican voters who talked about the ugly atmosphere and the hate they were now on the receiving end of.

"There's got to be a recognition that Republicans have been vilified by the left…called racists, white supremacists, misogynists….everything you can think of, simply for having a different opinion," said Garrison Douglas.

His view was echoed by BJ Van Gundy sitting next to him, who urged the Democrats to fulfil their promises of unity.

'Do you think the country CAN unite, we asked him?' ''If I see the other side do what they say they want to do which is unite…TRULY doing it…and not continuing to say 73 million are white supremacists," he replied.

There's a mountain of paperwork waiting for Joe Biden in his in-tray. Bringing together this polarised nation is going to be one of the toughest tasks.

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