• When Affirmative Action Was White

  • An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America
  • By: Ira Katznelson
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Yen
  • Length: 8 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 08-16-16
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 (58 ratings)

Regular price: $20.99

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Publisher's Summary

In this "penetrating new analysis" (New York Times Book Review), Ira Katznelson fundamentally recasts our understanding of 20th century American history and demonstrates that all the key programs passed during the New Deal and Fair Deal era of the 1930s and 1940s were created in a deeply discriminatory manner. Through mechanisms designed by southern democrats that specifically excluded maids and farm workers, the gap between blacks and whites actually widened despite postwar prosperity. In the words of noted historian Eric Foner, "Katznelson's incisive book should change the terms of debate about affirmative action, and about the last 70 years of American history.”
©2005 Ira Katznelson (P)2016 Tantor
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Critic Reviews

"[An] intriguing study" ( Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Andrew on 01-02-18

Absolute Must Read

I have reading a lot of books about the history of racial injustice in the US, from slavery to mass incarceration. In terms of thinking about where the US stands today, this book might be the most important of the lot. In my mind, one of the big lessons is that structural racism is boring and buried in details. Topics like mass incarceration are hugely important, but even they fail to account for the widespread disadvantage that black people continue to face in 2018. To my mind, this book shows the big picture. This book shows how black people were systematically held back from making it to middle class status. The writing is clear and precise and focuses on facts and rules and points to how the injustice was implemented. Despite being written in such a neutral voice, I often found myself wanting to crumple over and cry. Just read about the disgusting way that black troops in WWII were treated by their own military AND then were shut out of the GI Bill when they returned. It is sickening. It is truly disgusting. His purpose, to lay out a much stronger case for affirmative action is brilliant...but in some ways understates the implications of the book. To me, the bigger lesson is to understand how much government policy has been used to betray and exploit black people way after slavery. I recommend this book unreservedly. It should be read by every high school student in the country. This is the US - a society where racism is an integral part of the system, not a mere bug in the system.

If I had to offer a "criticism" it would be that the book lays almost all the blame for these policies on the South (the Southern Democrats to be specific). That seems to leave out the widespread use of city and state policy in the north to unfairly advantage whites over blacks (e.g. racial covenants in real estate contracts was common in cities like San Francisco). In that sense, the book represents an important tip of a disgusting iceberg.

The writing is great. The narrator does a perfect job. Do not hesitate to read this.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Letron Glover on 10-11-17

eye opening

this book should be on everyone's reading list to truly understand what america is to black america.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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