Calif. Reparations Task Force: Not All Blacks Are Eligible

Group votes to limit reparations to slave descendants
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 30, 2022 12:56 PM CDT
Calif. Reparations Task Force: No Compensation for All Blacks
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber speaks at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., on June 10, 2020. Weber is the daughter of sharecroppers who authored legislation creating the first-in-the-nation task force in California to study and recommend reparations.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

California’s first-in-the-nation task force on reparations voted Tuesday to limit state compensation to the descendants of free and enslaved Black people who were in the US in the 19th century, narrowly rejecting a proposal to include all Black people. The vote was split 5-4, with those favoring a lineage approach saying that a compensation and restitution plan based on genealogy as opposed to race has the best chance of surviving a legal challenge. They also said that Black immigrants who chose to migrate to the US in the 20th and 21st centuries did not share the trauma of people who were kidnapped and enslaved. The AP has much more:

  • On the other side: Others had argued that reparations should include all Black people in the US, regardless of lineage, who suffer from systemic racism in housing, education, and employment. They also said it was difficult to prove lineage.
  • The task force's origins: Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation creating the two-year reparations task force in 2020, making California the only state to move ahead with a study and plan. The task force members were appointed by the governor and the leaders of both legislative chambers. The committee is not even a year into its two-year process and there is no compensation plan of any kind on the table.
  • The eligibility question: It has dogged the task force since its inaugural meeting in June. Task force members—nearly all of whom can trace their families back to enslaved ancestors—need to make a decision so economists can begin calculations. A report is due by June with a reparations proposal due by July 2023 for the Legislature to consider turning into law.
  • California's obligation: Critics argue the state has no obligation to pay up given that California did not practice slavery and did not enforce Jim Crow laws that segregated Black people from white people in the southern states. But testimony provided to the committee shows California and local governments were complicit in stripping Black people of their wages and property, preventing them from building wealth to pass down to their children.
(More reparations stories.)

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