When affirmative action was white : an untold history of racial inequality in twentieth-century America

by Ira Katznelson

Paper Book, 2005


"A work that exposes the twisted origins of affirmative action"--Provided by publisher.



Call number



New York : W.W. Norton, c2005.

User reviews

LibraryThing member aketzle
Learned a lot in this book! Very important reading! Highly recommended. Puts the whole concept of affirmative action in historical context compared to all the times when government action was essentially an economic launching pad for white people at the expense of black Americans.
LibraryThing member johnjmeyer
Critical to understanding the existing gaps between African Americans and whites in today's society, this book addresses the deliberate policy decisions made during the New Deal and the Fair Deal to exclude the vast majority of African Americans from the benefits of Social Security and fair labor
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reforms. While Congress was under control of the Southern Democrats, neither Roosevelt nor Truman was able to win gains for a social safety net without exclusions that basically upheld Jim Crow in the South. Even fairer public policies enacted by the federal government were guaranteed to be administered by state and local governments -- in the hands of white administrators in the South and most of the North. Because of discrimination in the military in both World Wars, even the liberal GI Bill, which supposedly benefitted all GIs helped only a handful of African Americans, while enabling most "white" GIs (now including Jews and Italians post-war) to gain a governement-financed education and government-guaranteed loans. Today's existing wealth gaps were built on this foundation of "white affirmative action."
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LibraryThing member rivkat
The New Deal was a devil’s bargain: major programs to alleviate the suffering of the Depression, but with Southern-demanded local control so that whites could continue to control blacks and deny them the benefits of government intervention. This or none, they said, and the good white people of
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the north and west chose this. When the pro-union national law started to enable unions to make gains in the South, threatening to improve blacks’ relative positions, Southern Democrats switched sides and joined Republicans to write laws that deterred unionization in agriculture and stemmed the union tide in general. And while the GI Bill provided major benefits for some black men—as did participating in the WWII armed forces even under segregated conditions—the national Democrats didn’t even try very hard to avoid local control, meaning that black veterans were regularly denied the educational, vocational, and mortgage/business help that whites received. White middle-class wealth increased tenfold; black middle-class wealth did not, even as incomes by class/occupation started to equalize. Katznelson ends with a call to recognize current affirmative action for African-Americans as a response to deliberate exclusion from government benefits in the past, whether done on the retail level or wholesale (by excluding “domestics” and agricultural workers from Social Security at its inception, for example).
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Original publication date



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