California Opens the Door to Reparations

Gov. Gavin Newsom signs law to create a task force
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2020 12:41 AM CDT
Updated Oct 1, 2020 12:48 AM CDT
California Opens the Door to Reparations for Black Residents
In this July 23, 2019, file photo, Gov. Gavin Newsom talks to reporters at his Capitol office in Sacramento, Calif.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday signed a law that is the first step toward the state potentially paying reparations to Black residents. The law calls for the creation of a nine-member task force to make recommendations as to how such reparations could be made, particularly to descendants of slaves, the Sacramento Bee reports. In addition to possibilities like compensation and restitution, the task force may recommend changes to discriminatory state laws and policies, or ideas like issuing a formal apology, the bill says. "When you start looking at the difference between poor whites and poor Blacks, it’s an enormous wealth gap just among those groups alone," one assemblywoman says. "So, hopefully, they will look at what policies we put in place, and that they will have a list of policies that they believe the Legislature might want to take up."

The task force will also put together a report on the effects of slavery and systemic racism on Black residents of the state, and advise as to how the public could be educated on those effects. Slavery existed in California before it officially became a state, and continued even after it was outlawed in the state constitution. Discriminatory laws over the years have included Black people being barred from testifying against white people in court until 1863, plus segregation and housing discrimination, among other issues. "This conversation is so long overdue," Newsom said upon signing the bill, which had bipartisan support, adding that he hopes it will create "a paradigm that we hope will be resonant all across the United States." The Los Angeles Times reports California is the first state government to put such a plan into place. (More reparations stories.)

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