Martin Luther King’s ‘dream’ still not reality

Fifty years ago, Dr Martin Luther King Jnr made one of the most dramatic speeches in the history of politics and public speaking.

Monday, 23rd September 2013, 9:27 pm
Martin Luther King Jr addresses marchers during his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC

Say the words “I have a dream” to people of certain generations and they will know exactly what you mean.

If you don’t know what I mean, visit YouTube and you will soon get the picture.

It was a brave speech at a time of great racial tension and political upheaval.

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And it set the tone for much of the politics that followed.

It could be argued that Malcolm X made better, braver speeches.

But Dr King held the world, for those few minutes, in the palm of his hand as he worked the television cameras in a way that, must surely, never have been seen before and the like of which has never been seen since.

Nobody could claim that 50 years later racism is a thing of the past.

Clearly things are a lot better than they were 10, 20, 30 and 40 years ago.

But there is still an underlying level of racism that I find appalling.

Many inter-faith groups still fight hard to give us a truly integrated society.

But anyone who believes that has already happened is, unfortunately, sadly mistaken.

It is a sad fact of life that too many people in this area have a level of racism indoctrinated into them.

My upbringing was the complete opposite of that and I still find it very difficult to understand how the colour of someone’s skin, their religion, their heritage, culture or their language could make them a better or worse person.

At the very first Pendle Stage Awards in 1990, Peter Allen chose to deliver the “I have a dream” speech.

It was a spine-tingling episode that reduced the Pendle Hippodrome Theatre in Colne to complete silence.

Imagine my horror half an hour later to share a taxi home with an acquaintance who insisted on calling the driver “Abdul” all the way home.

I still hear the same kind of thing in local Indian restaurants and at taxi ranks.

And while that behaviour still persists, Dr King’s dream remains just that.