Landmark Reparations Report Outlines Steps for California to Repay Blacks

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FILE – In this June 11, 2020, file photo, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, wears a face mask as she calls on lawmakers to create a task force to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans, during the Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. California lawmakers are setting up a task force to study and make recommendations for reparations to African-Americans, particularly the descendants of slaves, as the nation struggles again with civil rights and unrest following the latest shooting of a Black man by police. The state Senate supported creating the nine-member commission on a bipartisan 33-3 vote Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

 

Staff

As part of California’s historic Assembly Bill 3121 (AB 3121), the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans (Reparations Task Force) today released an interim report providing an in-depth overview of the harms inflicted on African Americans in California and across the nation due to the ongoing legacy of slavery and systemic discrimination.

While a final report is expected to be issued in 2023, the interim report includes a preliminary set of recommendations to the California Legislature. They include making funding and technical assistance available for to Black community-based land trusts to support wealth building and affordable housing and that African Americans who lost homes to eminent domain laws, urban renewal projects or racist attacks be eligible for housing grants and zero-interest loans.

Other proposals include free tuition for Black students in private K-12 education and those pursuing higher education in the state. It would also ensure that school curricula reflect a more “expansive discussion of the experiences of Black Americans in a way that is accurate and honest.”

The report also suggests establishing 10 new offices within state government to oversee administration of reparations, including an Office of African American/Freedmen Affairs to help people file claims for compensation and an Office of Freedmen Genealogy to help people prove their eligibility with genealogical research; and the creation of a cabinet-level secretary position to oversee an African American Affairs agency with branches for civic engagement, education, social services, cultural affairs and legal affairs.

The Reparations Task Force is a first-in-the-nation effort by a state government to study slavery, its effects throughout American history, and the compounding harms that the United States and Californian governments have inflicted upon African Americans.

“Four hundred years of discrimination,” the report says, “has resulted in an enormous and persistent wealth gap between Black and white Americans.”

“Without accountability, there is no justice. For too long, our nation has ignored the harms that have been — and continue to be — inflicted on African Americans in California and across the country,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. “California was not a passive actor in perpetuating these harms. We must double down on our efforts to address discrimination in our state and nation and take a hard look at our own history, including at the California Department of Justice.

“This interim report is a historic step by the State of California to acknowledge the insidious effects of slavery and ongoing systemic discrimination, recognize the state’s failings, and move toward rectifying the harm.”

In the interim report, the Reparations Task Force provides an accounting of many of the harms of slavery and systemic discrimination in California and across the nation, offering a synthesis of many of the relevant issues, ranging from enslavement and government sanctioned residential segregation to environmental injustice and political disenfranchisement. Some of the key findings noted in the interim report include:

  • In order to maintain slavery, colonial and American governments adopted white supremacy beliefs and passed laws in order to maintain a system that stole the labor and intellect of people of African descent;
  • In California, racial violence against African Americans began during slavery, continued through the 1920s, as groups like the Ku Klux Klan permeated local governments and police departments, and peaked after World War II, as African Americans attempted to move into white neighborhoods;
  • American government at all levels, including in California, has historically criminalized African Americans for the purposes of social control, and to maintain an economy based on exploited Black labor; and
  • Government laws and policies perpetuating badges of slavery have helped white Americans accumulate wealth, while erecting barriers which prevented African Americans from doing the same. These harms compounded over generations, resulting in an enormous gap in wealth between white and African Americans today in the nation and in California.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to supervise the release of this monumental interim report,” said Task Force Chair Kamilah Moore. “A year-long effort, this 500+ page report chronicles the harms against the African American community, starting with the transatlantic slave trade, the institution of U.S. chattel slavery, Emancipation and the broken promise of Reconstruction, genocidal Jim Crow, to contemporary harms; it is the most extensive government-issued report on the African American community since the Kerner Commission in 1968.”

The final report—due in July of 2023— is expected to include the exact monetary amount of compensation and the number of Black Californians eligible.

In the meantime, the committee is expected to host a number of community listening sessions including one set for June 18 in Leimert Park.

Additional information about the work of the Reparations Task Force and the ongoing public hearing process is available at: oag.ca.gov/ab3121.


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