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


In spite of making many accents on the basis of democracy, which also include the question of people’s equality, the problem of racial discrimination as a result of social inequality remains current for the American society. That is why the issue of Affirmative Action is one of the popular topics of the public’s discussion.

However, in his book When Affirmative Action Was White (2005), Ira Katznelson uses the unexpected approach to discussing the problem and concentrates on the controversial interpretation of the events which led to the development of the discussion on Affirmative Action.

Ira Katznelson concludes the current situation related to Affirmative Action exploring the details of such social programs as New Deal and Fair Deal, examining the period of the Great Compression, and analyzing the civil rights movements with references to African Americans and their interests.

Thus, the author’s discussion covers the considerable period of time since the 1930s until the 1970s during which the results of the Civil Rights Act could be observed. All the author’s conclusions are correlated with the contemporary situation within the American society in relation to the minorities and their rights. That is why the historical actors of the book are the African Americans and politicians with their initiatives.

Moreover, Katznelson pays attention to the separate discussion of the Northern and Southern politicians’ positions in resolving the question. Ira Katznelson states that in spite of the traditional vision, such programs as New Deal, Fair Deal, and the G.I. Bill did not support African Americans and even contributed to their further discrimination until the Civil Rights Act was adopted.

To support the controversial opinion on the situation of racial inequality in the 20th century, it is necessary to use reliable sources and evidence. Ira Katznelson’s conclusions are based on the proper exploration of a lot of materials and statistical data to provide the credible examples and evidences in the book.

The particular features of the New Deal and Fair Deal programs and the G.I. Bill were examined with references to the government reports, Congress acts, and archive documents related to the political processes. The real social situation in relation to African Americans’ status during the studied period of time was analyzed with the help of reports and surveys conducted during the 1930s-1940s and the 1960s-1970s.

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.

Ira Katznelson’s discussion of the African Americans’ rights to Affirmative Action depends on proper exploring of New Deal and Fair Deal programs and determining the discriminative aspects in them. In spite of the fact Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Harry Truman’s Fair Deal are traditionally discussed as the periods of the American society’s recovery, Ira Katznelson focuses on the details which can be considered as the ways to discriminate African Americans regarding their education and job opportunities.

Moreover, the author accentuates the role of the Southerners’ politicians in developing the problem. Thus, providing a range of new possibilities for the white people, politicians gave no opportunities for African Americans to change their social status. Nevertheless, the author agrees that the civil rights revolution during the 1960s contributed to changing the situation for better, and African Americans’ discrimination was seized, the level of employment among this category of population increased.

Historians did not focus much on the events of the New Deal and Fair Deal as the roots of the revolution in the 1960s earlier. Furthermore, Ira Katznelson’s considerations about the post-World War II period for African Americans are also rather provocative. Thus, African Americans did not receive the benefits provided by the G.I. Bill for veterans.

Ira Katznelson’s opinion presented in When Affirmative Action Was White (2005) can be discussed as the alternative vision of the roots of developing Affirmative Action and other programs concentrating on the problems of the racial discrimination in the USA. The advantages of the book are in using credible resources and their interpretation from the social perspective.

The author presents the logically organized discussion of the most controversial points of the problem of racial discrimination in the country. However, the fact that Katznelson orients to the discussion of the periods in the American history, which are traditionally considered as leading to the country’s prosperity provokes the ambiguous attitude to the arguments presented.

It is rather difficult for readers to ignore the previous conclusions about such aspects as the effects of the New Deal and the G.I. Bill for the population and concentrate only on the role of African Americans in the process. Nevertheless, the book is useful for providing the audience with the possibility to look at the situation from the other perspective and focus on the full picture of the events.

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IvyPanda. (2019, August 23). Ira Katznelson’s When Affirmative Action Was White. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/ira-katznelsons-when-affirmative-action-was-white/

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"Ira Katznelson’s When Affirmative Action Was White." IvyPanda, 23 Aug. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/ira-katznelsons-when-affirmative-action-was-white/.

1. IvyPanda. "Ira Katznelson’s When Affirmative Action Was White." August 23, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ira-katznelsons-when-affirmative-action-was-white/.


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IvyPanda. "Ira Katznelson’s When Affirmative Action Was White." August 23, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ira-katznelsons-when-affirmative-action-was-white/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Ira Katznelson’s When Affirmative Action Was White." August 23, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ira-katznelsons-when-affirmative-action-was-white/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Ira Katznelson’s When Affirmative Action Was White'. 23 August.

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