“We are losing our way of life” was the cry of many whites during the Civil Rights movement. That fear is born again some 60 years later. Power hungry politicians and demagogues are leading the charge to make the white masses believe they can return to the way of life in which laws and customs made them feel superior and in control. “A way of life” is now promoted in academic terms as a “culture war” against whites and their culture.

To this colored girl, who spent over 20 years during the blatant Jim Crow era as an unequal second-class citizen, sights and sounds of the old culture are uncomfortably familiar. What way of life has been lost? For what American culture is the longing?

Inequality was the cornerstone of the old culture. White place was at the top of the racial hierarchy. Black place was codified by Jim Crow laws and customs to keep colored in their place. Segregation and discrimination were hallmarks of the old culture. Privilege belonged to only whites in the old culture; we colored were deprived of access to social, economic, educational and political opportunities. In the old culture, attempting to vote, to try to exercise the rights of citizenship could get one killed, as well as any attitude, demeanor, or action that did not indicate that one was being submissive and knew one’s place. In the old culture, whites had the power to punish a black for being in the wrong place and were protected by the legal system no matter how cruel and inhumane the punishment.

The culture of American society has evolved toward one attempting to live up to professed principles of equality expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The landmark 1954 Brown decision outlawed school segregation. The 1964 Civil Rights Act provided equal access to restaurants, transportation, and other public facilities. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the most significant aspect of federal civil rights legislation; it affirmed the citizenship of blacks by protecting the right to vote. Fair Housing Act of 1968 expanded on previous acts and prohibited discrimination in sale, rental, or financing of housing. These acts began the legal journey of creating “equality” at least on paper for all citizens. Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity laws opened previously closed doors to colored by requiring affirmative action to promote employment opportunity and to prohibit specific types of job discrimination. However, the narrative, the stereotyping, the consciousness of many whites remained locked in the old culture even as America attempted to move closer to the spoken ideals.

The economic downturn and globalization inched away the sense of superiority felt in the old culture. Black progress and prosperity further agitated the consciousness of those attached to whiteness. The “browning of America” dramatically increased the sense of loss of the old culture. The final straw that destroyed the old culture in the eyes of many whites was the election of a black man to the presidency -- twice. It became time to remember the old way of life and to restore it through any means necessary.

Therefore, in the 21st century, ways are being devised once again to strip blacks of the core indicator of citizenship, access to voting. Attacks on Affirmative Action and other means of “racial discrimination against whites” is before the Supreme Court. “Karen’s”, white women described as those who unjustly call police on black people are now protecting white physical spaces and determining when blacks are out of place. The killing of blacks has continued. The latest ploy is the use of the educational system as a means to return to the old culture. Accusations of indoctrination are used to prohibit the teaching of black history, ensuring the erasure of black presence and contributions to the society. The invisibility of blacks is reminiscent of the old culture.

The distinction between teaching accurate United States history and indoctrination are not verbalized for good reason. Indoctrination or the process of repeating an idea or belief until accepted without criticism or question has occurred for almost four hundred years with the stereotypical images and language used to dehumanize blacks as the “other” and “inferior” while reinforcing the mythology of white superiority.

In the next two years, Americans will have the opportunity to choose to return to the old culture or to continue to evolve as the culture it professes to be. One thing is certain, however; the world is watching. If America returns to the old way of life, the old culture, she will lose all credibility as a world leader who can profess the ideal of human equality with her usual instructing and chastising other nations for wrongs against humanity.