THE BLOG

The Dream Not Yet Fulfilled

02/09/2013 12:40 BST | Updated 01/11/2013 09:12 GMT

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed - we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal...I have a dream that my 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."

It was fifty years ago this week that Dr Martin Luther King gave his famous, "I have a dream" speech, a speech that looked forward to a day when equality would reign, when it was what you did, not what you looked like, that mattered.

Some would argue that Dr King's dream has been fulfilled. They would say that black people in America are no longer looked down upon as second class citizens. The laws that discriminated against them have been abolished. They are more and more - with certain exceptions of course - considered equal. After all, the US has just re-elected its first black president. Surely the dream has indeed become a reality?

However, we know that this isn't true. While legalised segregation is no longer a problem, there is evidence that black people are still looked down upon by significant sections of white American society. You only have to look at the case of Travyon Martin - shot dead for the crime of being black in a white neighbourhood - or the mad 'birther 'movement that has grown up around the Obama presidency, precipitated by small minded people who simply can't accept the idea of a black presidency and who therefore argue that Mr Obama was not born in the United States and is the President only by fraud.

It is also worth noting that, while Dr King's dream centred on the United States, it was also a dream for the world, and there is abundant evidence that even here in the United Kingdom there is still inequality based on race and a deep rooted distrust of anyone who isn't seen as "white" or British. While the English far right may have fallen into disarray in recent years with the decline of the National Front and the British National Party, it has been replaced by the "respectable face" of English nationalism, in the form of UKIP, whose rapid rise in popularity has highlighted the fact that large sections of the British electorate still distrust foreigners. After all, people very rarely vote for UKIP because of its polices over the NHS.

But it's not only UKIP. Recently the Coalition sent vans out into areas of London with a high proportion of residents from ethnic minorities with signs urging illegal immigrants to "go home," an action that has recently been decried as "racist" and "shameful" by Scottish MSPs and the Scottish charity Positive Action in Housing. And this wasn't the work of a bunch of fringe racists. This was a Home Office policy.

I long for the day when Dr King's dream will be fulfilled. When it won't matter where you come from, or what you look like, or what language you speak. When the only thing that will matter about you is how you behave. When we will not think it odd to see a black or Asian MP on the front benches of Parliament. When colour will be irrelevant. But I suspect that that day is long off, and we have a lot of work to do, before we can truly cry, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty we are free at last!"