A current thought is that erasing Confederate flags is a small but effective step in diminishing racism in America. More is better, and so if the effort is doubled and doubled again, we will be just that little bit closer to racial harmony and tolerance. Not a complete solution, but at least a sign of enlightenment and progress.
The effort and the self-congratulation that go with it avoid a couple of matters.
American racism is wide and deep. Even as it seems to wane, social media and having cameras everywhere is going to put once private prejudice on bold and sometimes vicious public display. Fully acknowledging it in all its forms is something to do next, but only when finger pointers check themselves and their own for hidden vermin. It is the age of actual glass houses.
The second point is that racism may not and likely will not disappear soon as a major force, no matter how we try. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but human nature and history give us pause. We can and should shield people from the effects of racism. The rights to do freely or be free of nasty consequence should be guaranteed. But that in no way assures evolution, and in some cases provokes nasty reaction. We might as well learn to live with racism, not so much accepting or condoning it, but digging deeper to learn what we can about the weaknesses that pervade life and self. One day that work of transcending racism may be successful. But that day is not today.
Just as we might acknowledge the prevalence of secret racism, including in ourselves, we might admit that racism is stubborn and intractable. We don’t have to punish ourselves on either count. But the rare process of candid self-examination might ultimately be more valuable than merely basking in the glow of having done the right but very tiny thing.