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The Relevance Of MLK’s ‘I Have A Dream’ Speech Proves The Fight Against Racism Is Far From Over

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Relevance Of MLK's 'I Have A Dream' Speech Today Proves The Fight Against Racism Is Far From OverPA Images

It’s been almost 60 years since Martin Luther King Jr. made his infamous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, and while society has come along way since, many of the activist’s iconic words still ring true today. 

On Martin Luther King day, January 18, members of the public are encouraged to help improve their communities as we celebrate the civil rights leader’s life and legacy.

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An outspoken activist, King was on the executive committee for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and fought arrest, retaliation and abuse in an effort to make the world a better place for its Black residents.

Among his accomplishments was the hard-hitting ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, spoken during the 1963 March on Washington. King spoke of his hopes that his ‘four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.’

Decades later, it’s undeniable that we have made great progress in the fight against racism, not least through the eradication of racist segregation and voting laws.

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Martin Luther King Jr. PA Images

However, can we confidently say that Black people live in a world where they are never judged by the colour of their skin? Unfortunately not. If that were the case, it’s very likely that Amhaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, among many many others, would still be alive today.

In his speech, Dr. King said:

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men – yes, Black men as well as White men – would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of colour are concerned.

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1963 March on WashingtonPA Images

The activist could have spoken these words today, and they would still ring true.

The NAACP reports that Black people are five times more likely to be stopped without just cause than White person, highlighting the fact that not everyone is yet ‘guaranteed the unalienable rights of life [and] liberty’.

Furthermore, 65% of Black adults have felt targetted because of their race; 84% of Black adults say White people are treated better than Black people by police, and 87% of Black adults say the US criminal justice system is more unjust towards Black people.

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Millions of people have taken to the streets in recent months to fight for justice, encapsulating what King preached as he said: ‘Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.’

Where some BLM critics hit back with calls of ‘all lives matter’, failing to recognise the fact that all lives are not valued equally, the speech points out: ‘We can never be satisfied as long as the [Black person] is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.’

New York Police Protests Black Lives MatterPA Images

In these ways, it is clear that society has a long way to go to eradicate racism. However, other parts of King’s speech help highlight progress that has been made in the growth of the movement.

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At the time, the activist acknowledged that many White people had ‘come to realise that their destiny is tied up with our destiny’, but implied that tackling racism was a job for Black people, saying: ‘In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds…. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.’

Black Lives Matter Protest In Philadelphia SuburbsPA Images

Thanks to better education, awareness, representation and an increase in support in the fight against racism, society has moved away from the notion that Black people are left to ‘conduct [their] struggle’ alone. Black Lives Matter marches are attended by people of all colours, and the notion of allyship is one with which millions of non-Black people across the globe are engaged.

Dr. King noted the importance of this allyship has he stressed: ‘We cannot walk alone’, and the weight of this comment through the years has helped make history, for example with the successful appointment of the first Black president and vice president.

Kamala HarrisPA

Charities such as Blueprint For All work with young people of all races, ethnicities and backgrounds to help them succeed, ultimately paving the way for an inclusive society where ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

While some Americans may have felt like the country was taking a step back from advancement with the appointment of Donald Trump after Barack Obama, hopefully the imminent arrival of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris into the White House will remind activists that ‘we shall always march ahead.’

The world has not yet reached the day that King dreamt of, but with more support than ever the limitless freedom for all is much more within reach.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk

Topics: Featured, Black Lives Matter, George Floyd, Racism

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NAACP
  1. NAACP

    CRIMINAL JUSTICE FACT SHEET

Emily Brown
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