How Bigotry Has Shaped Civil Rights, Marriage Equality, and Now Coronavirus Pandemic

Linda McClain wants you to know that even though people can’t physically be together right now, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, people can still help reduce prejudiced and bigoted views through remote social interactions, whether through phone calls, Zooms, social media correspondence, or texting. “I hope we will find new ways to engage in social contact across boundaries and foster solidarity and reduce prejudice,” says McClain, a Boston University expert and researcher in civil rights, gender equality, and family law.

Read an excerpt of the book, selected by McClain, here.

She has been an investigator of bigotry in all its ugly forms since before the 2016 presidential election-when the term “bigot” seemed to reenter the day-to-day lexicon of Americans. McClain, Robert Kent Professor of Law at BU School of Law, has spent years digging through archives of civil rights and marriage law to uncover the meaning of bigotry-which Merriam-Webster defines as “obstinate or intolerant devotion to one’s own opinions and prejudices”-and how it stokes the fires of gender, racial, and other forms of discrimination.

In her recently published book, Who’s the Bigot? Learning from Conflicts over Marriage and Civil Rights Law, McClain examines how political and legal disagreements over bigotry have helped change the course of history, and the hearts and minds of millions of Americans. She also delves into all the ways that bigotry, past and present, is shaping how religion, gender, and race are viewed in the United States today.

“People want to learn from the past and [how not to] repeat it,” McCLain says. They also don’t want to “fail to recognize new forms of injustice.” The Brink recently caught up with McClain to learn more about her research on bigotry and to talk about key cases, currently in front of the US Supreme Court, that could redefine who bigots really are. An excerpt of her book is available here.

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