During the 1950’s and 60’s racial hostility was understood as a sign of the times and a response to rapid social and cultural change. Most people view that political era with shame due to past wrongdoings. Collectively, though, most American feel a sense of comfort knowing that was then, and this is now.
Unfortunately, Civil rights-era bigotry has reemerged with a vengeance in recent days spreading anger, indignation, stereotypes, hostility and violence. Women’s rights groups are among those most familiar with it and how unchecked extreme beliefs can encourage harassment – and even murder. Following Obama’s election, intense cultural hostilities emerged as undercurrents within the birther movement, health care reform protests, immigration debates and Tea party leaders’ support for Jim Crow-era policies, such as poll tests. Who in their right mind would ever imagine a candidate for the U.S. Senate saying he believes the government should not enforce racial discrimination laws? or a former vice presidential candidate defiantly advocating for the “right” to use a hateful racial slur or calling to repeal the 14th amendment? It’s sad, but true. Political disagreements will always exist but public figures and those in positions of influence should be held to a certain standard — at least in the court of public opinion.
When America looks back at 2010 politics, it should not be forgiving or kind to those who used the same kind of hate and vitriol employed 50 years ago. These people should never been seen as heroes but, instead, as part of a litany of historical embarrassments. This “hall of shame” should include the likes of Pam Geller, Dr. Laura, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Andrew Breitbart, Rand Paul, Tom Tancredo, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh and many others. The nation was supposed to learn from the mistakes of 1960’s — not repeat them.