This policy has had a long run as a hot-button issue in America; the questions swirling around it seem never to die, and never to get resolved. Conservatives tend to see the basic proposition as a series of elaborate, dishonest dodges designed to circumvent merit-based standards. Liberals, plainly less unhappy, see the existing preferences as inadequate. Either way, however, the argument itself has become a bit of a bore in recent years, and has been increasingly relegated to the intellectual sidelines. Ira Katznelson wants to get the argument going again, and believes he has some new thoughts to bring to the table. About that, he could be right.
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By Ira Katznelson. After years of battling racial discrimination and braving state-sanctioned violence -- with hundreds of Southern black churches set fire to and scores of citizens beaten or murdered for daring to challenge American apartheid -- the civil rights movement achieved a climactic victory when President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act on Aug.
It was the outcome of "a shining moment in the conscience of man," declared the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In less than two years, the nation did more to advance equal rights for minorities than at any time since Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. For black Americans living in the South, the voting rights law finally secured the right to the ballot. And President Johnson initiated a sweeping new government policy called affirmative action.
Its purpose was to overcome at least some of the accumulated human damage caused by years of slavery and Jim Crow, and to ensure further progress toward equality. Yet millions of African-Americans remain mired in poverty in a nation bitterly divided over whether special help to minorities should continue.
Affirmative action programs have long been under siege, vigorously attacked in Congress and the federal courts and criticized for "discriminating" against the white majority. Fresh ideas and effective leadership to advance the American ideals of equality and social justice have been in short supply.
Ira Katznelson, the Ruggles professor of political science and history at Columbia University, enters this fray with a provocative new book, "When Affirmative Action Was White," which seeks to provide a broader historical justification for continuing affirmative action programs.
He contends that those programs not only discriminated against blacks, but actually contributed to widening the gap between white and black Americans -- judged in terms of educational achievement, quality of jobs and housing, and attainment of higher income. This history has been told before, but Katznelson offers a penetrating new analysis, supported by vivid examples and statistics.
He examines closely how the federal government discriminated against black citizens as it created and administered the sweeping social programs that provided the vital framework for a vibrant and secure American middle class. Considered revolutionary at the time, the new legislation included the Social Security system, unemployment compensation, the minimum wage, protection of the right of workers to join labor unions and the G.
Bill of Rights. Even though blacks benefited to a degree from many of these programs, Katznelson shows how and why they received far less assistance than whites did. He documents the political process by which powerful Southern Congressional barons shaped the programs in discriminatory ways -- as their price for supporting them.
At the time, most blacks in the labor force were employed in agriculture or as domestic household workers. When labor unions scored initial victories in organizing poor factory workers in the South after World War II, the Southern Congressional leaders spearheaded legislation to cripple those efforts. Over all, the G. Bill was a dramatic success, helping 16 million veterans attend college, receive job training, start businesses and purchase their first homes.
Half a century later, President Clinton praised the G. Bill as "the best deal ever made by Uncle Sam," and said it "helped to unleash a prosperity never before known. Bill than their white counterparts. As a result, thousands of black veterans in the South -- and the North as well -- were denied housing and business loans, as well as admission to whites-only colleges and universities.
They were also excluded from job-training programs for careers in promising new fields like radio and electrical work, commercial photography and mechanics.
Instead, most African-Americans were channeled toward traditional, low-paying "black jobs" and small black colleges, which were pitifully underfinanced and ill equipped to meet the needs of a surging enrollment of returning soldiers. The statistics on disparate treatment are staggering.
By October , 6, former soldiers had been placed in nonfarm jobs by the employment service in Mississippi; 86 percent of the skilled and semiskilled jobs were filled by whites, 92 percent of the unskilled ones by blacks.
Bill supported home purchases by nonwhites. The University of Pennsylvania, along with Columbia the least discriminatory of the Ivy League colleges, enrolled only 46 black students in its student body of 9, in The traditional black colleges did not have places for an estimated 70, black veterans in At the same time, white universities were doubling their enrollments and prospering with the infusion of public and private funds, and of students with their G.
Katznelson argues that the case for affirmative action today is made more effectively by citing concrete history rather than through general exhortations. With key parts of the Voting Rights Act set to expire in and other civil rights protections subject to change, we must understand a continuing reality: the insidious and recurrent racial bias in the history of American public life.
Ira Katznelson’s When Affirmative Action Was White Essay (Book Review)
By Ira Katznelson. After years of battling racial discrimination and braving state-sanctioned violence -- with hundreds of Southern black churches set fire to and scores of citizens beaten or murdered for daring to challenge American apartheid -- the civil rights movement achieved a climactic victory when President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act on Aug. It was the outcome of "a shining moment in the conscience of man," declared the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
When Affirmative Action Was White by Ira Katznelson
Learn More The information from the media sources was also examined. Basing on the findings of the critical socio-economic position of African Americans in the USA during the period of the Great Compression, Ira Katznelson can conclude about the adverse effects of discrimination which was also presented in some points of the previous New Deal and Fair Deal programs. Thus, providing a range of new possibilities for the white people, politicians gave no opportunities for African Americans to change their social status. Historians did not focus much on the events of the New Deal and Fair Deal as the roots of the revolution in the s earlier. Thus, African Americans did not receive the benefits provided by the G. Bill for veterans. The advantages of the book are in using credible resources and their interpretation from the social perspective.
'When Affirmative Action Was White': Uncivil Rights