IRA KATZNELSON WHEN AFFIRMATIVE ACTION WAS WHITE PDF

I was presiding over a classroom of about twenty undergraduate students, trying desperately to moderate a discussion on the legacies of the civil rights movement. Just look at our inner cities and crime among black youth and poverty among minorities. Civil rights was about more than the right to vote! Call it the difference between red states and blue states, the suburbs and the city, or white individuals and black individuals; many Americans simply disagree over how the United States should remember and interpret the social revolutions of the s and early s. One can speculate that Ira Katznelson has been listening to some version of this exchange since he first entered academia in

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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. A Left-leaning scholar based at Columbia, where he occupies an endowed chair in history and political science, Katznelson has in the past criticized modern liberalism as intellectually flabby and politically unprincipled, an obstacle to the truly egalitarian society he wishes to create. The surprise of this book is that the same critique of liberalism is central to his case for affirmative action.

Katznelson reminds us that affirmative action is customarily defended by liberals as an effort to undo the effects of many generations of black slavery and oppression. To the contrary, he maintains, black America would long since have upgraded itself on its own had it not been for systematic betrayals by liberals themselves, and specifically by the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. Given their hammerlock on the party, the Southerners succeeded again and again in ensuring that even ostensibly color-blind programs would be administered at the local level; they thereby all but guaranteed preferential treatment of whites, especially but not exclusively in the South.

A large case in point cited by Katznelson was the GI Bill of Rights, which, properly celebrated for its educational benefits, low-cost mortgages, and business loans, substantially bypassed black veterans. Yet the Wagner Act and other labor laws failed to protect union-organizing efforts in these occupations, which also went uncovered by Social Security or the new minimum-wage laws. Were it not for this devastating injustice, Katznelson insists, Johnson could have delivered a very different speech at Howard.

He could have talked about the emergence of a sizable black middle class, and have plausibly proposed nonracial solutions to the lingering problems of Southern poverty.

But history took a different turn, Katznelson writes, which is why, today, we are in need of a remedy that will at last right the wrong. Affirmative action is that remedy, but until now it has lacked a compelling rationale. To supply one, Katznelson points to the famous Supreme Court decision in the case of Bakke v. University of California. Speaking for the majority in that case, Justice Lewis F.

But Powell added that such preferences were to be allowed only in clearly defined circumstances. They had to be tightly linked to specified racial wrongs, not just generalized claims about racism; they had to be the least intrusive way of accomplishing the desired result; and they had to be a matter of compelling interest to the government.

But even there, much can be questioned. But to impose such an explosive social policy in the midst of a world war would have been madness. But it can also be read as a simple non sequitur.

A related problem is the considerable amount of time that has elapsed between the grievances Katznelson cites and the future remedy he proposes. One possibility, he suggests, would be grants to individuals whose parents or grandparents were harmed. This seems a long way from specificity. One reason for this, he observes, is that up until now the arguments made on behalf of the policy have been weak and inadequate. He adds: Perhaps because proponents of affirmative action have been unable to persuade most white Americans that it is a good idea, they have relied mainly on decisions in executive agencies and the courts, usually skipping the effort to win broad support either in public opinion or Congress.

There is a lot of truth in this, but it is not the whole truth. The fact is that at critical junctures, supporters of affirmative action have been extraordinarily lucky.

Twice it appeared that a deeply divided Supreme Court was poised to reject the policy as inconsistent with a Constitution providing individual rights and disallowing group rights. And twice—with Bakke in and again with the Michigan law-school case in —supporters of racial preferences found a nominally conservative swing voter on the Court with a rationale for splitting the difference and for opening the door to racial quotas. The new Supreme Court is likely to be less sharply divided.

If so, affirmative action might actually start to be an interesting subject once again.

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Ira Katznelson’s When Affirmative Action Was White Essay (Book Review)

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.

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'When Affirmative Action Was White': Uncivil Rights

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. A Left-leaning scholar based at Columbia, where he occupies an endowed chair in history and political science, Katznelson has in the past criticized modern liberalism as intellectually flabby and politically unprincipled, an obstacle to the truly egalitarian society he wishes to create.

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When Affirmative Action Was White by Ira Katznelson

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