Economists estimate more than $800 billion
The leader of California’s first-in-the-nation reparations task force Kamilah Moore has said it won’t take a stance on how much the state should compensate Black residents whom economists estimate may be owed more than $800 billion for decades of over-policing, disproportionate incarceration and housing discrimination.
The $800 billion is more than 2.5 times California’s $300 billion annual budget and does not include a recommended $1 million per older Black resident for health disparities that have shortened their average life span. Nor does the figure count compensating people for property unjustly taken by the government or devaluing Black businesses, two other harms the task force says the state perpetuated.
“All forms of discrimination should be considered in reparations,” Thomas Craemer, a public policy professor at the University of Connecticut, told the panel on March 29. “The task force should feel free to go beyond our loss estimates, and determine what the right amount would be.”
Black residents may not receive cash payments anytime soon, if ever, because the state Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom will ultimately decide whether any reparations are to be paid. The task force faces a July 1 deadline to recommend the forms of compensation to be awarded and who should receive it, along with other remedies to repair the harm.
But the panel’s chair, Kamilah Moore, has said it’s up to the state Legislature to ascribe a restitution amount based on the methodology economists recommended, and which the task force approved late last month.
“The task force is pretty much done regarding the compensation component,” Moore said. “Our task was to create a methodology for calculation for various forms of compensation that correspond with our findings.”
For those who support reparations, the staggering $800 billion estimate underscores the long-lasting harm Black Americans have endured, even in a state that never officially endorsed slavery.
Critics pin their opposition partly on the fact that California was never a slave state and say current taxpayers should not be responsible for damage linked to events that germinated hundreds of years ago.
Financial redress is just one part of the package being considered. Other proposals include paying incarcerated inmates market value for their labor, establishing free wellness centers and planting more trees in Black communities, banning cash bail, and adopting a K-12 Black studies curriculum.
Reparations talks are stalled at the federal level, but the idea flourished in California as well as U.S. cities and counties following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police. Newsom signed legislation in 2020 creating the reparations task force.