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The politics of the new frontier in the reparations movement


Practical Politics

By this Friday, June 30, 2023, the major work of the California Reparations Task Force Commission will have been submitted to state authorities and the Commission’s work will essentially have been completed. There will, of course, still be legislative hearings that the Chair and other members may be asked to attend and testify before. However, the compiled 2-volume work of substantially raising the profile of the Reparations Movement both in California and in the country at large will have been accomplished after almost two years of hard work.

Will the California Reparations Report result in a reparations victory for African Americans in California? That’s still highly contentious and won’t be settled soon.

What is certain, however, is that the nine members of the Reparations Commission will become “famous.” That may not translate into an award on BET or other such public displays of gratitude, and it remains to be seen how much personalized news coverage each Reparations Commission member will receive.

But it is indisputable that the prairie fire lit by the report of the California Reparations Task Force Commission will be taken up across the U.S. in the coming months and considerable positive publicity for Reparations Commission members will naturally follow. That’s especially the case for Chair Kamilah Moore.

The final report to be submitted this Thursday will include the “14 Reparations Harms”, the recommended ways to address those harms, who should act on the recommendations, the place of an apology to Black Americans in the state or not an apology, whether financial compensation to California’s African-American population is due and if so, what type and level of compensation.

There will be at least 31 chapters in a report that also addresses racial terror, political disenfranchisement, housing segregation, residential seizures and discrimination (redlining), separate and unequal education, environmental racism, medical discrimination, stolen labor, injustice in the legal system, police brutality, and unjust enrichment, among other things. In essence, the whole state and national conversation on reparations for African Americans will be raised to a higher level.

Of course, along with that will come substantial criticism and invective directed at Commission members. No one will be satisfied with the report. Since the issue of paying each African American resident of the city of San Francisco direct cash payments was raised in the San Francisco City Reparations Commission Report a few months ago, for virtually all the Black inhabitants of the state currently, the only question remaining now is ‘When and how much.?’  And the California State Reparations Task Force Commission Final Report will not and cannot answer that compound question.

That Commission report must go to the California State Legislature, and both that body and Governor Newsom have already said that paying compensation directly to California African Americans as reparations is a non-starter for state government.

Exactly how this will all turn out would probably make a good screenplay for a political thriller. But a resolution will be reached, one way or the other, and everybody will not be satisfied, guaranteed.

The California Reparations Task Force Commission members must still be thanked enthusiastically for their service and their thoroughness. They should be spared the pitchforks and knives coming their way, but of course, they won’t be.

Thank you, Commission members. Now duck !!!

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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