When I became active in the civil rights movement in the U.S. in the early 1960s I was somewhat pleased with some of the progress being made to overcome decades and decades of bigotry and insensitivity. Of course the focus then was on tackling the bigotry toward African-Americans, especially in the South. Those of us deeply involved oversimplified the mission we felt called to serve.
Back in Milwaukee there were some jolts that brought us to realize that the civil rights fight was wider and more deeply entrenched than we realized. I remember meeting with Catholic priest James Groppi, a very important leader in civil rights matters in Milwaukee. He told me we had to get out of his office in the church because the Milwaukee Police Department had it bugged. As we walked along the sidewalk in the parish neighborhood, a police squad car inched along next to us along the curb. It infuriated me, but to Father Groppi it was a day like any other in his hectic life. There were evidences of a Gestapo mentality in the South and in the Midwest, and in every corner of the U.S.
As "whites only"signs began to disappear from drinking fountains and public restrooms, the real bigotry was more woven into American culture, thinking, laws, etc. Open housing laws required struggles, sometimes violent ones. States had laws preventing inter-racial marriage and/or co-habitation ...mainly aimed at black men with white women. Instead of showing strength, the violent AND subtle white males in the U.S. only showed their fear and cowardess.
As time went on it became more and more apparent that this deeply entrenched bigotry was encouraged by big business, many churches, and linked to other agendas such as the Vietnam War and unequal wages.
Bigotry and insensitivity in the U.S. was linked to laws and practices against women, against other minorities, gays, those who held different thoughts about religion, the poor, welfare, and on and on. It was so omnipresent that as a child I made no big deal about the fact that many of my childhood schoolmates were told by priests and nuns that a Catholic would go to Hell for becoming too close to Protestants, let alone marry one. It was all a part of bigotry in motion in America and the vast majority of us paid little attention to it. But the civil rights movement was responsible for bringing most of it to our attention. How various Americans dealt with that revelation was quite different.
However the corporate bigots, the greedy bigots, the religious bigots, the gender bigots, etc. laid in waiting. Their time would come, they believed. And indeed it has.
We have now re-entered not only the bigotry of the 1950s but back to that of the 19th century and beyond, We have right-wing demands that laws to guaranty equal rights and equal pay for women in the workplace have to be overturned. Today women's rights to health care are being denied or limited. Today there is growing in-breeding among bigots who want to take back the glorious bigotry of the past. Let's return to "good old-time America" where patriotism was holy, and women knew their place [as did blacks and other minorities]. Religious bigotry has extended beyond various "other" Christianity to those Moslems who want to build Mosques among the true churches. There is no limit to what we need to spend for war industry and greed industry, but we have to cut the budgets for schools, welfare [even for returning veterans], parks, roads, infrastructure, ad infinitum.
This is the re-birth of the America of old. The good ole days. And what we are building now is a U.S. motto that goes like this: I've got mine, too bad about you.