A study on the lesser-known origins of affirmative action argues that key programs passed during the New Deal and Fair Deal era of the 1930s and 1940s were purposefully discriminatory, revealing how Southern democrats widened the gap between black and white Americans through specific restrictions in social security, the GI bill, and landmark labor laws. Reprint.
Ira Katznelson examines several decades of American history in order to present a stunning thesis regarding social policy and race relations. Katznelson proposes that, going back as far as the New Deal, federal programs such as Social Security and the G.I. Bill were never race-blind nor intended to be applied equally across racial lines. He explains how, in order to get legislation passed with the votes of the Southern block of Congressmen, the design and some of the language of social legislation served to establish that one group would benefit more than others. This "affirmative action for whites," as he calls it, effectively elevated Jim Crow to federal law, and over time it widened the gap between rich and poor, white and black.
Katznelson's purpose is to put the affirmative action debate into a wider context. He favors affirmative action (a term from the 1960s and after) and sees it as the remedy for decades of social injustice, and says America should extend affirmative action for an entire generation while working assiduously to undo the harm done. Katznelson uses as his thematic coda Lyndon Johnson's June 1965 commencement address at Howard University, in which the former Southern congressman forthrightly addressed the issue of racial injustice; Katznelson's opening chapter deconstructs the speech, and he reprints it in full in an appendix. Katznelson's innovative and well-argued approach shows how history can inform policy-making.
- Social Science, History
- Discrimination + Race Relations, United States / 20th Century
- August 1, 2006
- August 1, 2006
- Ira Katznelson