In many ways the USA (im canadian) has progressed like in your argument on less racism/sexism etc. But thats somewhat misleading because the world as a whole has progressed along the same lines. But in many ways, for example political and religlious ways, I believe your stepping back. And as funny as it may seem all I have to do to prove that is say mitt rominy, sarah palin, george bush. You were waaaaay to close to having rominy as president. (a morman who took his slogan from the KKK i believe)
The Zimmerman case is rekindling old racial tensions, we are obsessed with famous people that are richer than us even though they don't have talent, their is little to no focus on international affairs, and the majority of magazines and "news" is superficial and irrelevant. I guess you could say America hasn't gone backwards, because we have never had a bigger generation of idiots.
Listening to people's views around me on the George Zimmerman acquittal, Gay Marriage, World affairs and peers my age not wanting to be lawyers/doctors/teachers but the next big thing in Hollywood, etc. I would conclude Yes,America is becoming out of whack. America's taking two steps forward and three steps back. Quite disappointing.
The type of story we see today in the headlines is no more prevalent than it was in the past- we just SEE more of it due to 24 hour news media and the internet.
We have never in America had a time with LESS racism, LESS sexism, LESS intolerance and bigotry. The two most hated minorities in America, gays and atheists, are gaining more ground in regards to civil rights and facing less discrimination. Do we still have a ways to go? Sure- but things were NOT better in previous generations.