The episode is question is entitled "The Indian" and features Michael Ansara - who played a Klingon in Star Trek - as an Apache US Marshal who as the story progresses arouses the suspicion of the people in North Folk. Ansara's character Sam Buckhart was about to be the subject of a lynch mob if it wasn't for the quick action of the title character Chuck Connors' Lucas McCain.
We see the issue of racism or prejudice as shared in the context of a western show. Westerns weren't always about the cavalry chasing the Indians or cowboys/ranchers fighting the Indians. In that 1959 episode of The Rifleman a minority in the fictional town of North Folk was able to convince most of this lynch mob that it wasn't worth it to go up against some of their own people and an Apache US Marshal.
It lead me to a conclusion about so-called Hollywood activism. It seemed at one point the liberals of the 1950s and 1960s were on the right side of history. For example even though I may know Charlton Heston as a leader of the National Rifle Association - and may well consider him a right-winger - he was at the March on Washington.
The Civil Rights movement, was truly a necessary movement in the history of a country. Unless you accepted some of the injustices that lead to the boycotts and the marching how could anyone be opposed to any American seeking equal rights or even equal opportunity?
How can anyone be opposed to insuring that everyone has equal opportunity to a good education in a public or private school? How can anyone accept that a certain segment of the population had to be subjugated to a more favored segment of the population? If all men - well all people - are created equal how can we accept this?
Perhaps now the issues aren't much different. The issue may be less race/ethnicity than perhaps income. I hope I can be a rich man one day, but at this point that ship seems to have sailed. I'd be more than satisfied to at least eke out a middle-class lifestyle and I believe that should be relatively easy to attain.
Either way I can't say how this episode was received in the late 1950s other than perhaps most TV viewers of that time saw it as just another western TV episode. Westerns often did involve interactions between for example American Indians - or if you prefer Native Americans - and their interactions with European Americans. So who knows if episodes such as this made an impacts on their audiences.
Unfortunately the pendulum has swung directly in the opposite direction. My only concept of 21st Century Hollywood liberal activism is seen on FOX News. Perhaps today it's hard to do an episode about being fair to a person of a different ethnicity to whoever is the prevailing majority. Just as easily as we want to talk about fair play perhaps today's Hollywood activists are shoving their own agenda down the throats of the public.
I could ask if middle America thinks that Hollywood is out of touch with regular everyday Americans? As a person far removed from Hollywood and maybe even middle America I'm a long way from answering this question.
It just recently occurred to me that Hollywood has always had activists in some form whether they're the actors, directors, producers, or even writers. They created works of art perhaps showing how we can be fair to be people of different ethnicities. How it's certainly wrong to treat different people with outright scorn and disrespect.
Perhaps one day Hollywood will be on the same side of the issue of the day with most Americans. Perhaps one day taking a stand will not be equated with badmouthing other Americans - especially the ones that patronize your products.