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The term has received its greatest usage and exposure in the United States where, to the wonderment and disgust of the rest of the civilized world and a fair portion of the uncivilized world, in spite of the opening statement in their Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal," the U.S. institutionalized, in law, discrimination of the most basic and puerile kind which took nearly 200 years to dismantle.
The dismantling began in earnest with the 1964 passing of the Civil Rights Act which outlawed segregation in U.S. schools and public places. In spite of the change to the law, which gave blacks some of the same civil rights as whites, the changes foreshadowed by the Act often had to be won again in the court room or by massed action to have the Act enforced.
Once the worst of the racial discrimination was criminalized, the fight then moved to other arenas, particularly that of the rights of women, the minefield of abortion, and equal rights for homosexuals.