As the country celebrates the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech this week, a new poll shows that a slight majority of Americans believes that the civil rights activist’s dream has not yet been achieved.
“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” King said to a crowd of 250,000 Americans who marched on Washington on August 28, 1963.
According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released in July, 45% of Americans–including 79% of African-Americans–said they did not believe America is a nation where people are judged by their character and not by the color of their skin.
Only a slim majority, 54% of poll participants, agreed that America is a nation where people are not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character-–down from 60% in 2009 and 2010.
52% of respondents said that race relations in the U.S. are “very good” or “fairly good,” which is down from 79% who said that in a NBC/WSJ poll in Jan. 2009, 72% in 2010 and 71% in 2011. This number has declined substantially since the nation’s first black president, President Obama, took over the Oval Office in 2009.
The poll was conducted after George Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The 29 year-old, who is of white and of Hispanic descent, said he shot the 17-year-old African-American teenager in self-defense and his lawyers said throughout the trial that race played no role in the incident. The trial provoked a heated debate on race relations; a week after the Florida jury’s verdict, Trayvon Martin supporters held vigils across 100 cities nationwide to press the Justice Department for a civil rights investigation and to call for a repeal of “Stand Your Ground” laws.
In his emotional remarks about Trayvon Martin’s death, President Obama said that America still has a long way. “Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. It doesn’t mean we’re in a post-racial society. It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated.”
Zimmerman’s team has strongly disagreed with the implication that racial attitudes drove his actions. “While we acknowledge the racial context of the case, we hope that the President was not suggesting that this case fits a pattern of racial disparity, because we strongly contend that it does not.”