Economist to Help Cal Reparations Task Force Attach Costs to Injustices 

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌ ‌|‌ ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

With seven meetings left before drafting their final report, the California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals has enlisted the assistance of Dr. Darrick Hamilton, a scholar and leading national authority on race and public policy. 

He is expected to bring an economic perspective to the work the group is doing. 

The task force said it approved the appointment of the economics and urban policy professor at New York City’s The New School and charged him with helping to quantify what compensation should be for Black people living in California.

Task force member Loyola Marymount University psychology professor Cheryl Grills praised Hamilton’s selection. 

“To the extent we are setting the stage for the federal reparations process, professor Hamilton brings a level of credibility that would bode well for the ability of our work, not only for California but for the nation,” she said.

Hamilton was not present at the September virtual reparations task force meeting but his perspectives on reparations and closing the racial wealth gap were clear in a discussion with Chicago-area journalist Mark Miller during a City of Evanston RoundTable podcast. 

Reparations “grounds inequality and resource deprivation” in contrast to changing some “behavioral attitudes,” Hamilton told Miller, making the case for correcting past wrongs and getting people to understand why there should be change.

“Reparations is a retrospective, race-specific policy aimed at addressing both racial and economic justice,” Hamilton continued. “It has with it a component of truth and reconciliation, which not only provides dignity to the history that Black people have experienced. But it helps change the narratives about poverty and inequality more broadly.”

Hamilton has been involved in crafting progressive policy proposals, such as Baby Bonds, which are trust accounts for low income kids funded by taxpayers.  He is also a proponent of the Federal Job Guarantee, policy that would mandate government to provide a job for any person that needs one. Those initiatives have garnered national media attention and served as inspirations for legislative proposals across the country at the federal, state, and local levels. 

Hamilton also served as a member of the economic committee of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force and testified before several U.S. Senate and House committees, including the Joint Economic Committee on the nation’s potential policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic-induced health and economic crises

The New School’s Henry Cohen professor of Economics and Urban Policy, Hamilton is also the founding director of the Institute for the Study of Race, Stratification and Political Economy at the university where he started teaching last January. 

Founded in 1919, the New School is a private research university in New York City.

Hamilton, Grills said, is “considered one of the country’s foremost economists,” scholars, and “public intellectuals.” He was recently profiled in the New York Times, Mother Jones magazine, and the Wall Street Journal.

In 2017, Politico Magazine featured Hamilton in its feature “50 Ideas Shaping American Politics and the People Behind Them.” He is also a member of the Marguerite Casey Foundation in partnership with the Group Health Foundation’s inaugural class of Freedom Scholars.

Task force member Jovan Scott Lewis, chair of the Department of Geography at UC Berkeley, said Hamilton’s work will involve examining slavery, social issues, unjust laws, educational discrimination, loss of wealth, and systematic oppression. 

“From an academic and intellectual standpoint, (Hamilton’s) research, is and would be for our purposes, directly relevant because we are thinking about how to spread out in specific areas,” Lewis said.

On Sept.30, 2020, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the state’s historic reparations bill into law, Assembly Bill (AB) 3121.

AB 3121, titled “The Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans,” created a nine-member commission to investigate the history of slavery in the United States, the extent of California’s involvement in slavery, segregation, and the denial of Black citizens their constitutional rights.

Members of the task force elected Kamilah V. Moore, a Los Angeles-based activist and attorney, as its chair. The group also elected Dr. Amos Brown, pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and president of that city’s NAACP branch, as vice chair.

Besides Moore, Brown, Grills and Hamilton, the other task force members are state Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena); Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Gardena); Lisa Holder, a racial and social justice attorney; and Monica Montgomery Steppe, a San Diego city councilmember.

Attorney Don Tamaki, Esq., an attorney best known for his role in the Supreme Court case of Korematsu v. the United States rounds out the nine-member panel. Tamaki overturned the conviction of Fred Korematsu who refused to be taken into custody during the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in World War II.


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