What I am about to post is probably one of the most important ideas of our time. In fact, it is probably worthy of many hours of historical research and publication.
In short, people's entire perception of history is based on the 1950's, especially in the instance of social dynamics.
The reason for this is many fold. For one, the advent of Atomic weaponry left a deep scar on the "Civilized" world, and the knowledge that everything and everyone a person knew could be wiped away in a second drove people to tighten down on society and provide a Strict Order to hold off the fear of Nuclear Chaos. This was true all over the world, but I would focus our gaze on America.
Now, we all have a mental image of the 1950's. This is largely due to rise in Television. Shows like "Leave it to Beaver" showed us the ideal home and life of people. It was a world of strict hierarchies and enforced roles. Father was in charge, Mother stayed home, children obeyed, and if a minority was ever shown on TV, well, we can all guess what their roles were.
Then we come to the sixties, possibly the second more important decade in the last hundred years. I say second most, because without the fifties, it would never had happened. The Sixties were a decade of rebellion against a strict society's oppression. Almost every social movement we have today can be traced back to the Sixties. Civil Rights, Homosexual rights, etc. Everything can be traced back to the Sixties and the often violent reaction against the enforce order of "The Past." A Past which was considered to be all of history. Or at least, Western History.
However, and this is something no one talks about, is that the "Past" we have is a lie. The past, especially for America is typically painted as having existed like the Fifties did. The racism, sexism, oppression, etc. Often, historical realities are ignored to maintain the illusion that historical society was run the same as 1950's America.
In reality, however, history was much different. In fact, as recently as the 1940's, the worlds was radically different. Women and Minorities stood on a more equal footing than they did in the 1950's. In fact, one could make the argument that they were well on the road to full equality. Certainly, the 1920's in America there was even more equality between everyone. There were women and minorities in Government offices (though you will pretty much never hear about them). People tend to forget that in America, a majority of white men didn't have the right to vote. Or that there have been people who were openly gay in the past, that while receiving the usual Christian ire, were fairly well accepted. That Minorities, such as Blacks, while facing oppression in parts of the South, were largely free and accepted in the rest of the country, and even in the South there were areas of acceptance.
So, why is it that we fail to have the correct image of history? In many ways it is because of Television. For much of TV's start, there were very few channels and those in charge of those channels picked what was seen. First, they painted us a picture of "The Perfect Life." Later, they would paint us the pictures of a world that rebelled against that "Perfect Life." They painted everything with that brush, ignoring the realities of the past in favor of comforting order at first, and then later a complete rebellion against the order they painted, which in truth barely existed in reality for more than a decade.
In the end, history was Left to Beaver, and like a good little boy, he tried to learn a "swell" lesson and teach it to everyone else, ignoring the fact that it wasn't real in the least. And so we are left with a legacy of Hatred and Bigotry, rather than the reality that while there has always been inequality, there has also been equality.