I was too young to be a hippie or take part in protests in the 1960s. Social issues of that decade seemed far removed from the protected world of an elementary school student. As a 10-year old, the closest the unrest came to me was its effect on my favorite singing group. The Monkees had a concert scheduled in my hometown of Milwaukee. It didn't bother me that my family couldn't afford concert tickets; that was my blue-collar world. But I was still sad when the concert was cancelled because of race riots in the city.

The civil rights movement prevailed. By the time I was a teenager in Arizona, equality was not just a Constitutional ideal, but enshrined in law with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. My high school was largely white, but had significant numbers of blacks and Latinos (the preferred term at that time was Chicano). Among the students with whom I associated, no one cared about someone's ethnicity.

I realize my experience as a Caucasian woman is not the same as the experiences of people of color in my generation. We're not living happily ever after yet, although we've made great progress toward Dr. Martin Luther King's vision of a colorblind society. But progress toward that goal is stalled by the current trend of applying extremist labels (often falsely) to those of differing viewpoints.

• In an April 27 radio interview, Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson called Clarence Thomas, the only black justice currently on the Supreme Court, an "Uncle Tom" (title character in the civil war era novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin", who was subservient to whites). Rep. Thompson - also a black man - told CNN that Thomas hasn't done enough to help blacks. I wonder if that means Thompson wants Justice Thomas to twist the Constitution to give blacks special treatment. Thankfully, as a strict Constitutionalist, Thomas wouldn't "find" special privileges in the Constitution.

• Last week, a self-described "woman of color" objected to a Dartmouth fraternity's charity fundraiser. The problem? She feels it's racist for the frat to hold a "phiesta" for Cinco de Mayo. (Does this mean non-Latinos can't enjoy Cinco de Mayo food and music?)

• An activist appearing on CNN May 4 to discuss the abduction of 223 Nigerian girls from their school, claimed the United States would storm in and rescue the girls if they were white.

• Over this past year, several black, Latino and white members of Congress have claimed that people opposing President Obama's agenda do so, not because they think the policies are bad, but purely because Mr. Obama is black.

In our fast-paced, high-tech culture, many - especially politicians - have no patience for civil discourse, and seek the quickest method to achieve their goal. Applying the racist label to those with differing views is a quick way to discredit the opposition, making them appear unworthy to participate in the decision-making process. This diminishes the true meaning of racism, cruelty, and ignorance. Politicians and activists ought to save their moral outrage for real racism and cruelty. Slavery ended in the United States over 100 years ago, but unfortunately, there are still places in the world where people are forced into slavery or slaughtered because of their tribe or race.

• Americans heard little about Sudan's Darfur region until actor George Clooney began speaking about deplorable conditions in refugee camps. Those camps were actually an improvement for black Sudanese fleeing years of extermination attempts by Arab militia supported by the government. After a decade of fighting, South Sudan became an independent nation, but attacks still occur along the new border. Geo-political boundaries don't stop ethnic hatred.

• The Nigerian kidnapping is part of a larger campaign by the Islamic group, Boko Haram. They terrorize anyone who might block their plan to make the country into an Islamic state.

• Former Iranian president Mahmoud Amadinejad has vowed to wipe Israel (and, by extension, Jewish people) off the map, adding to the alarm that Iran is close to building a nuclear weapon.

It's time to stop the extreme, often hateful, rhetoric directed at opposing viewpoints. Besides placing the focus back on current victims of racism, a more civil tone might also lessen the discord that's been increasing in the US over the past 6 years.

Suzan Loda is a resident of Winnemucca. She can be reached via email at suzan@calneva.org.