“What’s all the yelling about?” one man asked as he walked up to Franklin Street, grocery bags in hand.
“Biden won,” a group of five racing down the pavement yelled at the top of their lungs.
A smile overtook his face.
Minutes after Joe Biden was announced as the country’s 46th president Saturday, Franklin Street filled with the sounds of cars honking and students cheering.
Biden’s win was announced before noon, but the celebrations in Chapel Hill and Carrboro continued until well after sunset. Hundreds of cars raced down the streets, passengers displaying rainbow pride flags, blaring music and raising their fists to the air.
Despite failing to win North Carolina, the former vice president declared victory over President Donald Trump. According to unofficial results, after winning states like Pennsylvania and Arizona, he secured 290 electoral votes, more than the 270 needed to win the presidency.
Resident Damien Moore said he's never seen Chapel Hill celebrate like this, except for when students rush Franklin Street after a UNC basketball victory over Duke.
He said one of the reasons he went out to watch the celebrations was because he’s witnessed more racism over the past few years than he ever had before, and Biden’s victory has made him hopeful for the future.
“What it means to me, especially as an African American, is that we finally restored some decency into the White House,” he said. “And now it’s time to end racism, it’s time to take back the White House, have democracy again.”
Moore's feelings are emblematic of how the chaos of 2020 affected voters during this election.
Youth voters, especially youth voters of color, played a critical role in Biden’s victory. Over 80 percent of Black and Asian young voters and over 70 percent of Latinx young voters supported Biden in the 2020 election, according to a study from CIRCLE.
UNC sophomore Greear Webb said racial injustice paired with the effects of COVID-19 has caused a disproportionate effect on young people of color, which he thinks students were thinking about while voting.
“Maybe I don't agree with everything that so and so candidate is doing, or so and so campaign is doing, but I know that they're going to listen to us as young people, and they're going to do everything they can to prevent an act like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery from happening in the future,” he said.
According to Biden’s presidential transition website, his main priorities once he takes office will be COVID-19 and economic recovery, racial equity and climate change, issues that UNC first-years Erica Bass and Ella Speer said they resonated with.
The Biden-Harris administration plans to:
- Prioritize racial equity in its economic plan for the country
- Increase public transportation and clean energy options
- Increase COVID-19 testing and invest in a vaccine distribution plan
Bass and Speer, who went out to Franklin Street, said they were also excited because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be the country’s first female vice president and first vice president of color.
“It feels like it's a long time coming,” Bass said in between cheering at passing cars.
Although the presidential election has been called, there are many other national and statewide races that are ongoing. In North Carolina, results for races like its U.S. Senate seat, state Supreme Court chief justice and attorney general won’t be clear until after Nov. 12.
But on Saturday, residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro didn’t seem to care.
“There’s just love in the air again instead of hate,” UNC graduate student Florence Dwyer said. “Because everyone just feels like they can finally breathe again.”
Maeve Sheehey contributed reporting.
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