The speed with which Southern political and economic elites have rushed to abandon the confederate flying on or near public buildings has shocked many of us who are familiar with the ways those same elites have pandered to white fear and racism over the decades. As welcome as the removal of the flag is, it is only another step on the long road to rooting out racism throughout the US. And I think that one reason it is so popular right now is that it’s a way for Northerners to once again feel their smug superiority over the South. I’m only somewhat surprised that legislatures and city councils in northern states haven’t passed resolutions demanding its removal in the South.
At the same time, we can expect a powerful backlash, and not just from the conservative media machine (although with today’s ruling on the ACA, their attention and outrage may change its focus). But that’s not where the real backlash is taking place. I suspect that in diners, bars, and on talk radio throughout rural America, white Americans are voicing their anger and outrage as confederate flags come down. No doubt, some of that outrage will be acted out.