A groundbreaking work that exposes the twisted origins of affirmative action.
In this "penetrating new analysis" (New York Times Book Review) Ira Katznelson fundamentally recasts our understanding of twentieth-century American history and demonstrates that all the key programs passed during the New Deal and Fair Deal era of the 1930s and 1940s were created in a deeply discriminatory manner. Through mechanisms designed by Southern Democrats that specifically excluded maids and farm workers, the gap between blacks and whites actually widened despite postwar prosperity. In the words of noted historian Eric Foner, "Katznelson's incisive book should change the terms of debate about affirmative action, and about the last seventy years of American history."
Rather than seeing affirmative action developing out of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, Katznelson (Desolation and Enlightenment) finds its origins in the New Deal policies of the 1930s and 1940s. And instead of seeing it as a leg up for minorities, Katznelson argues that the prehistory of affirmative action was supported by Southern Democrats who were actually devoted to preserving a strict racial hierarchy, and that the resulting legislation was explicitly designed for the majority: its policies made certain, he argues, that whites received the full benefit of rising prosperity while blacks were deliberately left out. Katznelson supports this startling claim ingeniously, showing, for instance, that while the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act was a great boon for factory workers, it did nothing for maids and agricultural laborers employment sectors dominated by blacks at the time at the behest of Southern politicians. Similarly, Katznelson makes a strong case that the GI Bill, an ostensibly color-blind initiative, unfairly privileged white veterans by turning benefits administration over to local governments, thereby ensuring that Southern blacks would find it nearly impossible to participate. This intriguing study closes with suggestions for rectifying racial inequality, but its strongest merit is its subtle recalibration of a crucial piece of American history.
Sham! No understanding of affirmative action
Affirmative action was put into place to assist those indigent people who needed an extra boost. It’s time has come and gone. It was meant to be a TEMPORARY solution so that if two equally qualified people were vying for the same job, the minority would get an extra boost. By no means was it meant to rectify all ills of society. And certainly it was not meant to exclude anyone on the basis of race which is exactly what it is doing. That is why people get so incensed. As it has had a poor track record according to minorities and non-minorities alike and as it was not designed for the long-term, Congress and the Courts need to put an end to it.
A disjointed rambling mess that doesn't even scratch the surface on race in US policy.