<\body> Stories in America: The Dallas Divide

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Dallas Divide

After spending a few days in one of the wealthiest areas of Dallas, we decided to head to the Southwest Center Mall in South Dallas to get a different perspective on politics. The differences between Highland Park and South Dallas are striking. Once you cross the line to the South, you'll see roads in disrepair, older homes and far more beat up cars (this is a serious understatement considering Hummers and other snazzy SUVs are the standard in Highland Park; and of course, there is no comparison between the quality of housing).

Unlike Highland Park Village, I didn't see any "W, Still the President" stickers in the Southwest Center Mall parking lot. The mall itself has no coffee shops or bookstores and sells mostly discounted clothing; I also noticed a lot of empty stores. Ninety percent of the shoppers are African-American and many are young parents. I tried, but couldn't find any Republicans. The majority of the people I interviewed oppose gay marriage and abortion, but say those issues don't affect their voting habits. Here are excerpts from a few of those interviews:

Cooter Rivers, 49, Cook

How are things going for you and people who live around here?

Well, things aren't going so well. People are losing their jobs around here.

Do you vote?

Yes, I voted for Kerry.

So you're a Democrat?


What issues are most important to you?

Helping each other and taking care of yourself and your family. Wages are important.

What do you think about the war?

It's a bunch of fooey. It's not for what they're saying it's for. Those young men are losing their lives over there.

Do you know anyone in Iraq?

My daughter-in-law's brother was one of the first who was killed there. He was 19 years old, just out of high school and had no training. They had him missing for a long time. They didn't even ship his whole body home. The war isn't necessary. We should leave that country and bring our boys and girls home.

What about issues like gay marriage? How do you feel about that?

I don't think it's right. The Bible says it's wrong.

Does it affect the way you vote?

No, that shouldn't be a political issue. I'm opposed to it, but I would never vote against it.

What about abortion?

I'm opposed to it, but that should be up to each individual person.

Has your life changed at all over the past four years?

Yes, I was hurt on my job and fell off a ladder. They changed my workman's comp and now I have to go to court. So yes, Bush has really affected my life. I've been working since I was 14 and have never been on workman's comp. I know there's been fraud, but not everybody commits fraud. I had to tap into my savings to get money for medicines.

What message would you send to Democrats?

On election day, I picked up people to take them to vote. When I was in line voting, I saw people who didn't know how to vote and the volunteers didn't show them. I stopped filling out my paper and helped people in line. They were like, how do you do this? I said, you've never voted? No. And no one helped them. That was right here in this area. I'd like to tell Democrats to get more volunteers down here when voting time comes around. Show people how to vote. Go door to door. Do whatever it takes.

Where do you get most of your news?

I read the newspaper and go online to Yahoo. I like to keep up with Arnold Schwarzenegger in California.


I don't understand how he could become a governor in our country. It's amazing.

D.W. Awane, 31, Works for a liquor company

Tell me about this area.

Voices are not heard here. Low-income people and people with felonies don't have a voice. It's not easy finding work here. The world is going in a totally opposite direction from which God wanted it to go, but there are still a lot of good people around here. We just have to speak louder.

I assume you voted for Kerry?

Oh yeah. I'm a Democrat.

What makes you a Democrat?

I'm for people who are less fortunate. I come from nothing. My mom left me in an alley in Waco, so I was born on the streets. I connect to people that don't have anything or make wrong decisions. Everybody makes mistakes. We should help them. That's the only way we'll be able to grow. Until we see that, we'll continue seeing destruction and chaos. They keep saying we're in debt, but we're not helping our own people. We need to help our own, then go help everyone else. I want to help everybody. Afghanis. Africans. Jews. Chinese. Russians. All races. Let's help them all, but we should help people in our backyards first.

How do you feel about the war?

Money, power and oil. People should know the truth. Stop lying to people. Tell them the truth. Our brothers and sons and cousins are out there fighting and losing their lives. For what?

Do you know anyone over there?

I have a cousin who is a Navy Seal. My other cousin is a sergeant. Another cousin from New Orleans is a captain. I know about six or seven people over there. I tell them I love them when I talk to them. I say, I appreciate what you're doing, but I wish you were doing it for the right reasons. I don't like our people going to fight over something that doesn't belong to us. We've been fighting for things that aren't ours forever. It started with the Indians.

What's needed most in this area?

Guidance. In order to keep people off the streets and reduce crime, they need guidance. When people don't have anything, what happens? Crime goes up. People gotta eat and survive. There's so much negativity knocking people down.

Do a lot of people in this area vote?

Yeah, I got a lot of my friends and young people to vote. I think it went up five or six percent this year. We did way better this year than any other year that I can remember. Voting is very important, even though they say it might not count. If that doesn't work, then we go up to the gates and complain. If enough people go up there, we'll start seeing change. I'm trying to tell everyone around here to be a part of life.

A lot of Republicans I interview say people need to take responsibility for their actions and they shouldn't rely on government handouts. Everyone has the opportunity to pull themselves out of poverty. How do you respond to that?

How would they know everybody has a chance unless they're out here. It's easy to say that when you have a job and a nice place to call home. I challenge all politicians to come and live out here. Leave Washington DC and see life for what it is. Go out and communicate when it's not election time. You'll learn about starvation and homelessness. Just go downtown and sit there. They think people aren't trying? People are trying. If you live way up north, you have no idea what's it like down here. Come on down. I'll show you around.

Where do you get your news?

Local newspaper and weekly magazines. You can't just go with one source.

Davion Mathis, 21, Stay at home mom

Tell me about this area. Are there enough jobs here? How's the economy doing?

In order to find a job, you have to drive pretty far. With gas prices so high, it's hard.

What do you think about the state of the country?

It's bad. It's time to get Bush out. The war is nonsense. They got Saddam. They're not gonna find bin Laden, so bring them home. Too many people have died.

Did you vote for Kerry?

I sure did.

Why are you a Democrat?

I chose to be a Democrat when I was in the ninth grade. I think Democrats try to help people who are less fortunate than themselves. That's why I chose to be a Democrat.

Has life changed for you since Bush took office?

Yes, I'm poor now. My husband got laid off.

Are you religious?

Yeah, I'm a Christian.

How do you feel about gay marriage and abortion?

As a Christian, I don't agree, but gays should be able to do what they want. I wouldn't encourage anyone to have an abortion, but women should have the option under certain circumstances.

So you wouldn't vote Republican to ban gay marriage or limit abortion?

No. Those issues shouldn't be so political. I don't agree with abortion, but it is legal and should remain legal.

What issues are most important to you?

People's heath and well being. I hate to see people struggle because somebody else is too selfish to give even though they have more than they need. I want everybody to be taken care of.

What advice would you give the Democrats?

I think they did the best they could. I think they lost because of gay marriage. The Republicans used that to win. It's hard to persuade people on that issue.

Where do you get most of your news?

Local TV news.

Mattie Johns, 69, Secretary

What do you think of the state of the nation?

I don't know. I just think a few select people are in charge. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't vote. I can understand it because a lot of people don't know if their vote counts.

Are you a Republican or Democrat?

Democrat. I voted for Kerry.

What'd you like about him?

I liked his low key manner and the issues he talked about.

Have things changed for you since Bush took office?

Yeah, a lot of people around here have lost jobs and lost homes. I know families who had to move in with other families because they lost their jobs and could no longer afford to pay their rent.

What do you think about the war?

Our boys are over there getting killed for nothing. The war was sold to us on false information.

Where do you get most of your news?

Local news.


At 6/13/2005 5:23 AM, Anonymous Derrick said...

Hello again from Sydney Rose,

Congrats on your site...it's really taken off...the interviews are more and more illunimating, and its good that you're letting the interviwees speak for themselves. I'm making all my friends look at your site - especially the lefties with a kneejerk reaction to the words Bush and Republican, simply because what you have is so much more balanced than what is traditionally available.

When you have finished your trip you might be interested in travelling around the world, and asking the rest of US what we think about the USA...It's certainly a worthwhile project.

Bon Voyage.

At 8/09/2005 10:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really liked this quotation

"I don't like our people going to fight over something that doesn't belong to us. We've been fighting for things that aren't ours forever. It started with the Indians."

kinda says it all.

congrats on your trip. I really wish I could be doing what you are doing, but as a single mom - sole breadwinner I can only cheer from the sidelines!

At 3/01/2006 4:24 PM, Anonymous Tom said...

So great to see some Christian people who do have personal feelings against homosexuality who are able to separate their personal feelings from what isn't their business and from the principle that the government has to let everyone marry no matter who might disapprove of any particular marriage.

The insidious GOP is trying so hard to get black Christians and any white evangelicals who are not already voting GOP to forget these principles and to be scared into voting based on their anti-gay feelings. The GOP divides one oppressed group against another and then brags about how savvy and victorious this makes them. How unchristian and unhuman.


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