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Martin Luther King’s dream still a vision

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. marches with other civil rights leaders and marchers during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

FLASHBACK: Martin Luther King Jr. during one of his rallies.

NEW YORK — Fifty years after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, nearly half of those who responded to a new poll said a lot more needs to be done before people in the United States would “be judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character”.

The Pew Research Centre in Washington, D.C., found that 49 per cent of those polled think “a lot more” needs to be done to achieve the colour-blind society King envisioned in his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. But 73 per cent of black respondents and 81 per cent of whites thought the two races get along “very well” or “pretty well”.

The telephone poll of 2,231 adults, including 376 black Americans and 218 people of Hispanic descent, was conducted between August 1 through 11.

A quarter of the black Americans polled said the lives of blacks were better now than they were five years ago, when the United States elected its first black president, Barack Obama. In 2009, after Obama’s election, 39 percent of black Americans expressed the same opinion.

“It’s clear now that the rosy glow that followed that historic election has faded among both blacks and whites,” said Pew Research Centre senior editor Rich Morin.

“We don’t know for sure but it’s reasonable to suggest that among the biggest reasons would be the Great Recession, which hit all Americans hard, but particularly blacks.”

King’s speech was the centrepiece of a march on Washington that drew some 250,000 people to the National Mall. In it, the famed orator described the lives of black Americans, telling the nation, “The Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

The Pew poll found the economic gulf between whites and blacks is roughly the same as it was half a century ago.

The gaps between blacks and whites in the areas of household income and household wealth have widened, but the poll found that on measures such as high school completion and life expectancy, they have narrowed.

The poll found that on other measures, including poverty and homeownership rates, the gaps are roughly the same as they were 40 years ago. (Reuters)

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