California on Wednesday released a report, the first of its kind, laying out the case for reparations to the descendants of American slaves, along with preliminary recommendations for what that compensation might look like.
The report, released by a nine-member Reparations Task Force, details the history of California’s participation in white supremacy through slavery and subsequent government policies and actions that served to discriminate. black residents in all facets of their lives. The task force’s dozens of recommendations for reparations to Black Californians of American slave descent would attempt to address these widespread harms, including a persistent racial wealth gap – but did not include a specific call for direct payments, which should appear in a final report next year.
“Today is a great day for all Californians and a great day for democracy,” Lisa Holder, civil rights attorney and task force member, told MarketWatch. “I am very, very proud to be part of this historic initiative and to be connected to this groundbreaking report and analysis.”
Holder said: “When I was growing up I knew I was going to have to work twice as hard to get half as much. It’s a bitter pill for a young person to swallow. What this report does is it explains to the world – and young black people in particular – the historic discrimination that has created the imbalance and inequity that forces them to work twice as hard to be seen as half as good.
The task force was the result of a bill drafted by then-Assembly Member Shirley Weber, who has since served as Secretary of State, and signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020. It is the the nation’s largest reparations effort to date, and some advocates hope it can help pave the way for federal action, which has stalled for three decades.
While California outlawed slavery, the task force noted that racist policies and violence in the state perpetuated it, retaining descendants of slaves for generations.
“In California, racial violence against African Americans began during slavery, continued into 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 settle in white neighborhoods,” reads the report.
He goes on to say that residential segregation resulted in harms that included negative effects on black people from pollution and shoddy infrastructure. One of many recommendations the task force is pushing because of this is a system of state-subsidized mortgages that guarantees low interest rates for qualified applicants.
William Darity, Jr., a professor at Duke University, told MarketWatch that he thinks local and state level repair efforts are insufficient. An economist and co-author of the book “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century,” Darity said he was a volunteer consultant for the California task force, along with co-author A. Kirsten Müllen . He said they have been advocating for a federal approach to reparations for decades because they believe billions of dollars are needed to close the racial wealth gap.
They recommended that the task force identify state-specific damages and make recommendations based on those findings, he said.
“What might be unique to California is the discriminatory exercise of eminent powers or the particular ways in which over-policing and mass incarceration have been directed against the black community,” Darity said. “The task force has been given a very, very difficult project – designing an agenda for an issue that is best suited for federal action.”
Kamilah Moore, chair of the task force, said the wording of the California law does not prevent the United States from acting on reparations.
“We are aware and aware that repairs are primarily a federal issue,” she told MarketWatch in an interview ahead of the release of the report. report.
See: Reparations are a ‘human rights issue’ that will boost economy, says California task force chago
For people like Tiffany Quarles – a black woman in her early 40s who grew up in South Central Los Angeles and said she “did everything right” by going to college and then finding a job in the entertainment industry – the reparations would address the lingering inequalities that plagued his life.
“When you work in Hollywood at the entry level, you see the difference between white people making the same amount as you but could afford to live in Brentwood,” she said, referring to an upscale suburb from Los Angeles. “Their family had wealth and mine didn’t.” ‘t.
Quarles is co-chair of the National Assembly of Descendants of American Slavery in Los Angeles, and she and other activists worked with Weber’s office on the issue of reparations before the bill passed and the working group is formed. She said her life had been shaped by prejudice, as her family moved from the South to an isolated Los Angeles, where she discovered that even after going to college and starting to work, she would be “fired or fired more easily” and experience “microaggressions” at work.
The task force is trying to address concerns like Quarles’. One recommendation calls for increased funding for the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and another seeks to “create a fund to support the development and retention of Black-owned businesses and remove barriers to obtaining of a permit which are not strictly necessary and which harm Black workers.
Chris Lodgson, a black businessman, said that as the task force continues to work on more specific recommendations ahead of the release of its final report due next summer, it anticipates more specific policy recommendations related to businesses, such as guaranteed contracts for black-owned businesses. .
Lodgson, who is also involved in pushing for reparations in the state as a lead organizer for the Coalition for a Fair and Just California, said he runs “a business that is the largest database and the Sacramento County Black Business Directory”.
“This is a historic moment for our people,” he added. “We haven’t been this close to reparations since the end of the civil war.”
After meeting for a year and working on the nearly 500-page report, the unpaid task force will hold more meetings and public hearings over the next year. Its final report, which will include “a detailed program of reparations for African Americans” to present to the state legislature, is expected next summer.