x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

50 years on, Martin Luther King's 'Dream' still not realised in US: poll

Nearly half of those who responded to a poll say 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".

NEW YORK // Fifty years after Reverend Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech, nearly half of those who responded to a 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 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 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 from August 1 to August 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 Mr Obama's election, 39 per cent 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 Rich Morin, the centre's senior editor. "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 about 250,000 people to the National Mall. In it, the famed orator described the lives of black Americans, telling the nation that, "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 home ownership rates, the gaps are roughly the same as they were 40 years ago.

The centre said that between 1967 and 2011 the median annual income of a black household of three rose from about $24,000 (Dh88,000) to nearly $40,000. Expressed as a share of white income, black households earn about 59 per cent of what white households earn, a small increase from 55 per cent in 1967 (1967 and 2011 median household income figures are both calculated in 2012 dollars).

When expressed as dollars, the black-white income gap widened, from about $19,000 in the late 1960s to roughly $27,000 today. The centre said the race gap on household wealth has increased from $75,224 in 1984 to $84,960 in 2011.

The centre said other indicators of financial well-being have changed little in recent decades, including home ownership rates and the share of each race that live above the poverty line. The black unemployment rate has consistently been about double that of whites since the 1950s.

When it came to criminal justice, the centre said that significant minorities of whites agree that blacks receive unequal treatment when dealing with the criminal justice system.

The centre said seven-in-10 blacks and about a third of whites said blacks were treated less fairly in their dealings with the police. About two-thirds of black respondents and a quarter of whites said blacks are not treated as fairly as whites in the courts.

Thirty-five per cent of blacks polled said they had been discriminated against or treated unfairly because of their race in the past year, compared with 20 per cent of Hispanics and 10 per cent of whites, the centre said.