Wednesday, 13 November 2013

St Andrews Day anti-racism march - message of support from Johann Lamont MSP, Leader of the Scottish Labour Party

Yesterday, we featured the First Minister speaking in support of STUC's St Andrew's Day March and Rally Against Racism. Today Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont writes about Martin Luther King and the ongoing fight for equality.

Earlier this year, we celebrated 50 years since Martin Luther King gave his famous 'I have a dream' speech.

When he led more than a quarter of a million to Washington in 1963, the civil rights movement faced a seemingly impossible task in overcoming an establishment which believed that not every man or woman was equal.

But Dr King's eloquent message of hope and equality overcame the conservative forces that tolerated segregation and, as a consequence, society slowly began to see past the politics of division and grievance that fuelled racism.

Has Dr King's dream become a reality, where every man and woman is given equal standing? Certainly not in his lifetime, as he was sadly taken from us just a few short years after his stirring speech.

Yet we have made tremendous progress in breaking down barriers to the fair and just society most of us aspire to. When once an elderly Black woman would have to give up her seat on the bus for her white 'superior’, we know have a generation of young people who don't recognise colour as a defining feature of people's place in life.

And what greater legacy could we claim for those tireless and brave civil rights campaigners than President Barack Obama, revered all round the world for his charm, intelligence and thoughtful leadership.

That dream must have seemed impossible in 1963 but it is a reality today - one important landmark on the long road to full equality.

We know that our ambition for a fair and just society, where opportunity is afforded to all, no matter their race, orientation or background, still eludes us today.
Sadly, people still face discrimination because of their colour, race or ethnicity.

Too many men and women are not fully accepted by all of society because they are gay.
Women still face challenges breaking into the spheres of influence traditionally dominated by men.
Disabled people still encounter too many barriers preventing them accessing the quality of life they should be entitled to.

And many children's life chances are decided by the age of three, held back by their background, denying them the opportunity to achieve their potential.

But we can take inspiration from the success of those amazing men and women, black and white, who marched on Washington that day, demanding what they knew was right.
They remind us that social change is hard-fought and we can only achieve our ambitions by winning the political argument for change. We cannot allow complacency to set in or settle for a false prospectus based on myth and assertion.

We in the labour and trade union movement have always campaigned to bring about change for good. We know that there are no quick fixes or magic wand that can bring about change.
But we know that through our collective endeavour, we can achieve real change, winning hearts and mind one at a time.

The fair, equal society free of prejudice we aspire to won't happen tomorrow but we have to believe we can achieve it one day.

We can be confident that the generation that follows us will be more tolerant, more progressive and more open to equality if we instil in our children these values we hold dear.

Those people who followed Martin Luther King to Washington 50 years ago believed they could challenge racial prejudice - now we have a Black President leading the free world.

I don't know what the symbol of our success in our struggle against inequality will be in 50 years’ time, but I look forward to campaigning with you today to help us get there one day.

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