x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

American dream

Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr told the world of his dream. But how much has really changed for African Americans since then?

Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr told the world of his dream. The inspirational rhetoric he invoked to more than 250,000 gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial still echoes through American society and around the world to this day.

Looking back, comparisons are inescapable. How much has really changed for African Americans and to what degree were King's uplifting words followed by genuine enfranchisement?

The answer, inevitably, is mixed. On August 28, 1963, when African Americans in the deep south were forced to use different drinking fountains, it would have been inconceivable that in 2013, an African American would hold the highest office in the land and be the most powerful person on the planet. Even 15 years ago, that was almost unthinkable.

But by many other measures, much more needs to change. The institutional barriers that segregated buses and drinking fountains are thankfully no more but assessed on the rates of poverty, imprisonment, education and life expectancy, most African Americans might still ask if they are better off.

This anniversary should be celebrated, but it should serve as a reminder of how far is left to go to attain that King's dream.