A related problem is the considerable amount of time that has elapsed between the grievances Katznelson cites and the future remedy he proposes. How, in particular, are specific injuries to identifiable victims today to be traced back to the 1930's and 40's? In describing the workings of this and other features of his program—an exercise relegated to the book’s final three pages—Katznelson becomes noticeably blurry. One possibility, he suggests, would be grants to individuals whose parents or grandparents were harmed.This sort of argument gets tossed around a lot. A related complaint, equally silly, is the idea that, say, a Korean immigrant "fresh off the boat" shouldn't have to pay for injustices committed by mostly-dead white Americans. Well, true. But that's not the point! No policy on earth, as far as I know, could possible remedy past injuries to specific and identifiable people; it's just too difficult. Katznelson's framing this all wrong. The choice isn't between atoning for past wrongs and failing to do so (or doing so in an equally unjust manner). The choice here is between a world in which whites have a disproportionate advantage in life, and a world in which that advantage is somewhat lessened. As Katznelson shows, past policies have created the first type of world; race-based affirmative action, insofar as it works, aims for the second. It's not perfect by any means, but unless someone can come up with a better alternative, it's the best option available.
A "less administratively burdensome" possibility would be "assertive federal policies" designed to help those "poor Americans who face conditions produced by the constellation of patterns of eligibility and administration the South placed inside the most important New Deal and Fair Deal programs." "Constellation of patterns"? This seems a long way from specificity.