When South Carolina finally removed the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds, the action capped a volatile and often heated debate in the state Legislature (with passions running high on both sides of the issue), as well as in the country. Not to be flippant, but Gov. Nikki Haley, South Carolinians and the rest of the nation will find the expulsion of the rebel flag (and the pole it flew on) to a nearby state history display a small victory on the battlefield of narrative control of American history.

Although many Americans agree that the rebel flag may be inappropriate to display as an official state symbol, they are simultaneously conflicted about the history that flag represents. South Carolina state Sen. Grady Brown typified this sentiment: voting for the removal of the flag as an example of what was best in Southern/Confederate values of gentility and honor.

Such blandishments are not to be shunned out of hand. Brown’s stance reflects the price the Union paid for a speedy reconciliation with its Southern prodigals. Indeed, the punditry coming out of Washington and New York political commentators showed their bafflement at the persistence of Confederate defense in 2015 America. They are baffled primarily because the pop culture of our society periodically forgets that although the North won the Civil War, the South won the peace.

In “Great Slave Narratives,” Arna Bontemps said, “In any debate between mind and conscience, the omission of evidence is unforgivable.” Let no one forget for nearly four quarters of the 20th century, the Confederate narrative dominated the generally accepted memory of the American experience: The Civil War was not primarily about slavery but about states’ rights; slavery, though a clumsy/controversial device, was necessary to civilize the Negro; the failure of 19th century integration was because of greedy carpetbaggers from the North and the incompetent Negro politicians they supported during Reconstruction, etc.

What may surprise Americans who aren’t historians is the fact that Northern whites roughly cosigned these views. Although separated on the issue of slavery, most whites of the 19th century agreed with the supposition that Blacks were inferior. Therefore, once the barrier of slavery was removed by the war, Northern whites found it relatively easy to turn their backs on Reconstruction so that a new United States could take its place as a world power. Led by industrialists and financiers from th e North, complicity with the Confederate narrative moved rapidly after the Grant administration ended in 1876. By 1890, the Confederate flag returned to public view, thereby harmonizing Southern racism and, more importantly, eugenic cosmopolitanism in the mainstream culture.

When Theodore Roosevelt came to power in 1901, this son of a Georgian mother who had relatives who fought for the Confederacy, further established Southern sentiment at the apex of power and cultural influence, while giving his imprimatur to Booker T. Washington’s segregated plan for Negro uplift in the South. The organization founded by Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest in 1868, the Ku Klux Klan, became a prominent fixture in early 20th century politics because of its articles that espoused the “the supremacy of the Constitution” on the one hand and opposition “to Negro equality” on the other.

President Woodrow Wilson’s election in 1912 completed the process of Confederate history as American history. Wilson, heavily influenced by a Southern upbringing steeped with antipathy for Blacks, gave carte blanche support to a policy of segregation of the races. This policy coincided with the advent of a new medium that would do its share to influence historical perspective, the moving pictures. D.W. Griffith’s blockbuster “Birth of a Nation” glorified the Jim Crow South and Confederate nostalgia while denigrating the Negro in freedom.

Fast-forward to 1939 and David O. Selznick’s film epic based on Margaret Mitchell’s novel “Gone With the Wind,” when Confederate veterans were ostentatiously invited to the Atlanta premier of the film while the Black cast was unceremoniously excluded, and it’s easy to see how romanticized versions of the Old South and sanitized versions of slavery had an adamantine hold on the imagination of the country—a hold that didn’t significantly loosen until another David (David L. Wolper) successfully adapted the Alex Haley book, “Roots,” to the small screen. No less captivating than the tale of the life of Mitchell’s Southern belle heroine, Haley’s book uprooted what had been commonly held assumptions about the South as a benign entity and dovetailed with the civil rights insurrection of the 1950s and 60s.

Couple the “Roots” phenomenon with further thorough excavation into America’s treatment of non-whites, and the Confederate narrative was no longer compatible with modernity. By the turn of the 21st century, the Confederate narrative was completely embattled and the rebel flag became the chief symbol of this embittered imbroglio.

Let no Northerner or Southerner think just because the rebel flag was removed from the South Carolina state house grounds that the issue of 150 years of Confederate nostalgia will be completely undone. Dylann Roof’s terrorist attack on that AME Church in Charleston, I fear, hasn’t been fully fathomed. The self-righteous grandstanding of news commentators and the comfort Republican state legislators have with Sen. John C. Calhoun’s lexicon of acrimony against either federal or outside intrusion speaks to the deeper implications of how the outcome of the Civil War pervades the present.

A Southern writer who was very honest about the effect the color line and the Civil War had on the region, William Faulkner, tried to explain to his readers that nothing in the South was ever as easy as its defenders wanted it and Northerners needed it to be. The white anxiety that led to Roof’s heinous massacre speaks to a larger conundrum brewing in the country that will not be satiated by symbolic acts of unity. All Americans must strive to deal with the brutal, bloody and uncomfortable truths of the nation’s history. Only then can we prevent the South that inspired Roof from ever rising again.