UNITED STATES NEWS

California’s Black reparations panel starts historic vote

May 5, 2023, 9:45 PM | Updated: May 6, 2023, 5:20 pm

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — California’s reparations task force began voting Saturday on recommendations for how the state may compensate and apologize to Black Californians for generations of harm caused by discriminatory policies.

The nine-member committee, which first convened nearly two years ago, was giving final approval at a meeting in Oakland to a hefty list of proposals that will then go to state lawmakers to consider for reparations legislation.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, who is cosponsoring a bill in Congress to study restitution proposals for African Americans, at the meeting called on states and the federal government to pass reparations legislation.

“Reparations are not only morally justifiable, but they have the potential to address longstanding racial disparities and inequalities,” Lee said.

The panel’s first vote approved a detailed account of historical discrimination against Black Californians in areas such as voting, housing, education, disproportionate policing and incarceration and others.

Other recommendations on the table ranged from the creation of a new agency to provide services to descendants of enslaved people to calculations on what the state owes them in compensation.

“An apology and an admission of wrongdoing just by itself is not going to be satisfactory,” said Chris Lodgson, an organizer with the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, a reparations advocacy group.

An apology crafted by lawmakers must “include a censure of the gravest barbarities” carried out on behalf of the state, according to the draft recommendation approved by the task force.

Those would include a condemnation of former Gov. Peter Hardeman Burnett, the state’s first elected governor and a white supremacist who encouraged laws to exclude Black people from California.

After California entered the union in 1850 as a “free” state, it did not enact any laws to guarantee freedom for all, the draft recommendation notes. On the contrary, the state Supreme Court enforced the federal Fugitive Slave Act, which allowed for the capture and return of runaway enslaved people, until for over a decade until emancipation.

“By participating in these horrors, California further perpetuated the harms African Americans faced, imbuing racial prejudice throughout society through segregation, public and private discrimination, and unequal disbursal of state and federal funding,” the document says.

The task force approved a public apology acknowledging the state’s responsibility for past wrongs and promising the state will not repeat them. It would be issued in the presence of people whose ancestors were enslaved.

California has previously apologized for violence against and mistreatment of Native Americans.

The panel also approved a section of the draft report saying reparations should include “cash or its equivalent” for eligible residents.

More than 100 residents and advocates gathered at Mills College of Northeastern University in Oakland, a city that is the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. They shared frustrations over the country’s “broken promise” to offer up to 40 acres and a mule to newly freed enslaved people.

Many said it is past time for governments to repair the harms that have kept African Americans from living without fear of being wrongfully prosecuted, retaining property and building wealth.

Elaine Brown, former Black Panther Party chairwoman, urged people to express their frustrations through demonstrations.

Saturday’s meeting of the task force marked a crucial moment in the long fight for local, state and federal governments to atone for discriminatory polices against African Americans. The proposals are far from implementation, however.

“There’s no way in the world that many of these recommendations are going to get through because of the inflationary impact,” said Roy L. Brooks, a professor and reparations scholar at the University of San Diego School of Law.

Some estimates from economists have projected that the state could owe upwards of $800 billion, or more than 2.5 times its annual budget, in reparations to Black people.

The figure in the latest draft report released by the task force is far lower. The group has not responded to email and phone requests for comment on the reduction.

Secretary of State Shirley Weber, a former Democratic assemblymember, authored legislation in 2020 creating the task force with a focus on the state’s historical culpability for harms against African Americans, and not as a substitute for any additional reparations that may come from the federal government.

The task force voted previously to limit reparations to descendants of enslaved or free Black people who were in the country by the end of the 19th century.

The group’s work has garnered nationwide attention, as efforts to research and secure reparations for African Americans elsewhere have had mixed results.

The Chicago suburb of Evanston, for example, has offered housing vouchers to Black residents but few have benefited from the program so far.

In New York, a bill to acknowledge the inhumanity of slavery in the state and create a commission to study reparations proposals has passed the Assembly but not received a vote in the Senate.

And on the federal level, a decades-old proposal to create a commission studying reparations for African Americans has stalled in Congress.

Oakland city Councilmember Kevin Jenkins called the California task force’s work “a powerful example” of what can happen when people work together.

“I am confident that through our collective efforts, we can make a significant drive in advancing reparations in our great state of California and ultimately the country,” Jenkins said.

___

Sophie Austin is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Austin on Twitter: @sophieadanna

United States News

Associated Press

After rare flash flood emergency, Florida prepares for more heavy rainfall in coming days

A tropical disturbance has brought a rare flash flood emergency to much of southern Florida as residents prepared to weather more heavy rainfall on Thursday and Friday. Wednesday’s downpours and subsequent flooding blocked roads, floated vehicles and delayed the Florida Panthers on their way to Stanley Cup games in Canada against the Edmonton Oilers. The […]

3 hours ago

Forgiving father's killer hard for 3 children of Jordan Rasmussen...

KSL Podcasts/Amy Donaldson

A family decides to forgive a killer, but will the next generation follow?

Michael Moore killed Jordan Rasmussen and Buddy Booth in 1982. Forgiving their father's killer was hard for Rasmussen's three children.

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Neil Goldschmidt, former Oregon governor who confessed to sex with a minor in the 1970s, has died

Neil Goldschmidt, a former Oregon governor whose confession that he had sex with a 14-year-old girl in the 1970s blackened what had been a nearly sterling reputation, has died. He was 83. Goldschmidt died at his Portland home on Wednesday, The Oregonian reported, according to family members. The newspaper said the reported cause was heart […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Man charged with robbing a California bank was released from prison a day earlier, prosecutors say

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A man charged with taking three people hostage while robbing a Southern California bank last month had been released from prison a day earlier, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. The 53-year-old was indicted on robbery charges after investigators said he claimed to have a gun, jumped over the teller counter and […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Woman with gun taken into custody after standoff at FBI building in Seattle, authorities say

SEATTLE (AP) — A woman armed with a handgun was taken into custody after an hourlong standoff at the FBI building in Seattle on Wednesday, authorities said. The woman walked into a publicly accessible area where people have to wait to be buzzed into the lobby, according to FBI spokesperson Steve Bernd. She pointed the […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

South Carolina man pleads guilty in federal court to fatally shooting Virginia police officer

ABINGDON, Va. (AP) — A South Carolina man pleaded guilty to federal charges Wednesday in the shooting death of a police officer in southwest Virginia in 2021. Michael Donivan White, 36, of Cross, South Carolina, had already pleaded guilty to first-degree murder charges in state court. The federal counts include drug charges and causing the […]

8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

California’s Black reparations panel starts historic vote