Others have called the flag a distraction from "real" issues like poverty, housing discrimination and other concrete forms of inequality. But as Ed Sebesta — a Dallas-based researcher who has been following the neo-Confederate movement for more than two decades — argues, the South's flags and symbols are powerful in shaping the ideas of Southerners and transmitting views of racism and inequality from generation to generation.
While the recent uprising against Confederate symbols is a welcome development, Sebesta believes it will likely be a long-term battle to thoroughly uproot these artifacts, and the ideas they represent, from Southern life. As Sebesta, who is co-author of the seminal book "The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader," wrote this week in the Black Commentator:
The power of the neo-Confederate movement is through the shaping of identity and values ... Once Jefferson Davis is your hero and the plantation is your ideal, whether conscious or not, you will naturally support the politics of inequality.
[T]hough recent events are very encouraging and will represent real progress in fighting the neo-Confederacy, there is a long struggle ahead and a lot will depend on people realizing this is important and affects the real issues of the day.