Martin Luther King’s ‘dream’ still not reality

Martin Luther King Jr addresses marchers during his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC

Martin Luther King Jr addresses marchers during his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC

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

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.

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.