by Robert J. Hansen
The California Reparations Task Force, the first initiative of its kind by a state government, released its final report and recommendations Thursday.
The Task Force’s final report identified methodologies for calculating reparations payments to eligible Black Californians and recommended numerous policy changes directed at redressing every aspect of the atrocities perpetrated against African Americans.
Task force Chair Kamilah Moore told the Sacramento Bee she feels “pretty confident” in the work that the task force has put forth, which gives lawmakers a road map to provide monetary compensation.
“I think there are already some elected officials who have openly stated that they are inspired by the work that we’ve done and are looking forward to introducing legislation,” Moore told the Bee. “I think as early as later this year, no later than 2024, we might see some reparations legislation.”
The institution of slavery is inextricably woven into the establishment, history, and prosperity of the United States. Constitutionally and statutorily sanctioned from 1619 to 1865, slavery deprived more than four million Africans and their descendants of life, liberty, citizenship, cultural heritage, and economic opportunity.
Following the abolition of slavery, government entities at the federal, state, and local levels continued to perpetuate, condone, and often profit from practices that brutalized African Americans and excluded them from meaningful participation in society.
Attorney General Rob Bonta said California must start with accountability if it wants to be a leader in the movement for true reparatory justice for African Americans.
“Our nation has for too long overlooked the atrocities visited upon African Americans or consigned them to vestiges of the past,” AG Bonta said. “This final report decisively establishes that now is the time for California to acknowledge the state’s role in perpetuating these harms, and ensure that through a comprehensive approach to reparations, we commit ourselves to the healing and restoration of our African American residents.”
The legacy of slavery and racial discrimination has resulted in debilitating economic, educational, and health hardships that are uniquely experienced by African Americans.
Taking steps to dismantle systemic racism will take courage some in the party have yet to show, Senator Steven Bradford told Politico.
“This country was built on white supremacy as a whole,” Bradford said. “I think racism is a bigger factor than party, because we have Democratic majorities in both houses, and we still struggle to move these progressive, liberal bills.”
Although California technically entered the Union in 1850 as a free state, ts early state government supported slavery.
Some scholars estimate that up to 1,500 enslaved African Americans lived in California in 1852. Enslaved people trafficked to California often worked under dangerous conditions, lived in unclean environments, and faced brutal violence.
California did not ratify the Fourteenth Amendment, which protected the equal rights of all citizens, until 1959 and did not ratify the Fifteenth Amendment, which prohibited states from denying a person’s right to vote based on race, until 1962.
Several California cities did not hire African American workers until the 1940s. Today, by some measures, two of California’s major industries, Hollywood and Silicon Valley, employ disproportionately fewer African Americans.
A 2014 study of the Los Angeles metro area found that the median value of liquid assets for native-born African American households was $200, compared to $10.000 for white households.
According to the International Commission of Jurists, (ICJ) compensation is to be understood “as the specific form of reparation seeking to provide economic or monetary awards for certain losses, be they of material or immaterial, of pecuniary or non-pecuniary nature.”
The California Department of Justice (DOJ) warned of recent electronic communications and social media posts sharing false and misleading information about African American California residents receiving monetary reparations. This information is false.
“There is no such process in place with the Department of Justice or any other state agency,” the DOJ said.