For years, people have been advocating for reparations for Black people whose ancestors were slaves in the USA. Many debates have been made for and against reparations, but progress stagnated since the topic was introduced in 2020.
In Sacramento, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber used the reparation given to the Japanese-Americans who were held at internment camps during World War II as an example of the nation knowing what it means to make amends with their citizens. Those Japanese survivors and their families received $20,000 each, and the U.S. government apologized for their wrongdoings.
After years of a California-created task force delving into history and studies to make its case for reparations, it recently held their first meeting to discuss financial compensation for California descendants of enslaved Black people.
The meeting started with the task force admitting that there are more questions than answers, but they were willing to give an update on what five equity disparities experienced by Black people were being considered for compensation.
The five disparities are: government taking of property; devaluation of Black-owned businesses; housing discrimination and homelessness; mass incarceration and over-policing; and health.
One of the issues the task force is tackling is determining when each harm began and ended and who should be eligible for monetary compensation in those areas. For context, they could look at Baldwin Hills prior to the Civil Rights era as a place where many Black people experienced housing discrimination or even look to the ‘70s when more people were imprisoned for drug-related crimes. Also, there doesn’t have to be a direct correlation between the person and harm, but if they can prove their ancestry experienced said harm, they can still receive compensation.
But this concept of reparations causes many problems, as one of the requirements discussed to receive compensation is the ability to prove your ancestry, lineage and residency in California.
Before this meeting, the task force discussed limiting the timeframe of reparations for Black descendants in the United States freed or enslaved to the 19th century, as many Black people during that time didn’t have documents and avoided getting their genealogy checked as they feared they would become enslaved.
That limit sparked outrage as many people can’t trace their lineage that far back because enslavers often shipped people to work in various plantations in and outside the country.
Another issue was how much the compensation would be and how payment would be distributed. Economic research presented to the team suggested California’s maximum liability for housing discrimination inflicted upon Black residents between 1933 and 1977 was about $225,000, but Taskforce Chairman Kamilah Moore wanted to temper expectations of financial support.
“In reality, that number would be minimized when you take into account the fact that the task force decided in March that the community of eligibility would be lineage-based rather than race-based,” Moore explained, to the Daily Mail. “When you look at who was impacted by housing discrimination during that particular time, it most likely won’t be all Black folks.”
The task force has a July 1 deadline to complete its final report for the Legislature recommendations on how the state can atone for and address its legacy of discriminatory policies against Black Californians.