What Does the Word Rollback Mean?

Following the American Civil War, Congress passed laws that amended the United States Constitution and were designed to ensure that people were given equal protection under the law, and equal participation in our democracy. Throughout the history of the United States, there have been periods when the struggle for civil rights has been set back. A good example is the period from 1876 to 1964 when Jim Crow laws legalized segregation in the Southern and border states of the United States. The Civil Rights Movement put an end to the formal Jim Crow era. This movement, and other developments, such as the women’s suffrage movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, brought greater protections against discrimination and broadened opportunities for economic and social equality.

The 1980s marked the beginning of what some have called the “rollback” of civil rights in the United States. Over the past 20 plus years, a well-funded and well-organized effort by people uncomfortable with the federal government’s role in protecting civil rights formed groups such as the Federalist Society to make change in the federal courts and have an impact on its decisions. The groups have been successful at influencing judicial nominations, judicial decision-making, and public opinion. And the courts, as demonstrated by a range of key cases, have become less protective of civil rights, setting dangerous precedents for future cases and the security of our rights.

The rollback affects practically all aspects of American life — from our ability to challenge inequality in education, to protections against employment discrimination, to the authority of Congress to make sure that the air we breath and our water supply is clean. Therefore it is crucial that we join together to demand an end to the rollback, ensuring the preservation of our hard-won civil rights.