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News > U.S.

California Legislature to Analyze Slavery Reparations Plan

  • People at the presentation of the California Reparations Task Force report, June 29, 2023.

    People at the presentation of the California Reparations Task Force report, June 29, 2023. | Photo: Twitter/ @NarroVictor

Published 30 June 2023

The "Reparation Task Force" details 12 areas of harm to be addressed, including over-policing, housing discrimination, and separate and unequal education.

On Thursday, California's Black reparations task force presented their final report to state lawmakers, moving their efforts to compensate descendants of slaves to the next step.


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The task force spent two years on the over 1,100-page report, proposing more than 100 recommendations to repair the harm done to the state's African American population.

Their recommendations included giving direct cash payments and implementing preferential policies to benefit Black Californians that had long been disadvantaged.

The state-level task force, the first of its kind in the United States, was created in 2020 following a series of protests in response to the police killings of two unarmed Black people -- Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

To become law, the reparations need to be proposed as legislation first, then passed by both chambers, and finally signed by the governor.

A reparations-related bill is not expected to be introduced any time soon. California's current legislative session adjourns in mid-September and the next session begins in December.

The task force's report details 12 areas of harm to be addressed, including over-policing, housing discrimination, and separate and unequal education. The panel recommends that the state issue a formal apology for the historic atrocities suffered by the Black people.

So far, nine U.S. states -- Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia -- have officially made similar apologies.

The panel also proposed policy changes, including greater investments in schools, health care, housing and job training, as well as improving access to higher education, and reforms in policing and public safety.

Economists, working with the task force, calculated the economic harm caused by discriminatory policies and practices in California. They recommended potential direct cash payments of up to US$1.2 million for a 71-year-old Black person who lived all his or her life in California and can trace his or her lineage back to an enslaved person.

Jovan Scott Lewis, a member of the reparations task force, said they were not "giving people money" but "returning monies taken" and "monies stolen."

The task force said the proposed benefits would only go to descendants of enslaved people, not to all Black residents. They said financial redress was limited to residents who can document lineage from Black people who were in the United States in the 19th century. 

It's unclear how much the reparations would cost California or how these payments would be funded.

At the federal level, the reparation efforts have stalled for decades, but cities, school districts and universities have been pushing the cause forward. As the most populous U.S. state, California is expected to set an example for other states to follow. But lawmakers also face challenges to turn the proposals into law.

State Senator Steven Bradford, a member of the task force, told media that they faced "major hurdles" and "are lacking true allies" on this issue, suggesting that many colleagues of his in the legislature do not support the idea.

A 2021 Pew Research Center survey found that U.S. adults viewed the prospect of reparations mostly negatively, with only 30 percent in favor of the concept.

A survey by the Public Policy Institute of California earlier this month found fewer than half of the respondents had a favorable opinion of the task force itself, though majorities supported a formal apology from the state to descendants of slaves.

The survey also found that about eight in ten Californians viewed racism as a problem in the U.S. and seven in ten thought that ethnic discrimination contributed to economic inequality.


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