Could it finally be happening? An ongoing debate in California has discussed ways to address the impact slavery and systemic racism have had on the lives of Black people. The California Reparations Task Force, made up of lawyers, civil rights leaders and lawmakers, are currently studying the state’s role in carrying on the legacy of slavery, reported USA Today. They are working with Gov. Gavin Newsom to propose legislation by next year.
The proposals would include direct payments, housing and business grants and ending discriminatory policies, per USA Today. The task force has considered everything from the exclusion of Black people in white-dominated workforces to the psychological trauma passed down from slavery.
One of the main obstacles the task force may face is getting approval for the direct cash payments to Black Californians.
From USA Today:
Cash reparations are largely unpopular with white Americans and widely backed by Black Americans, according to a 2019 Gallup poll. Numerous studies show stubborn gaps persist between white and Black Americans when it comes to economic and educational gains, as well as health care.
Chris Lodgson, the lead organizer with the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, hopes to see direct cash payments as part of a larger package of remedies.
“The path forward is going to have to, in addition to that, create specific types of reparations that target helping our people here in California become not just more powerful consumers, but also help us to become better producers,” Lodgson said. “So that must go hand in hand with direct cash payments and that means endowing us with business grants, endowing us with industrial grants.”
Reparations advocacy groups have organized with mayors around the country to support the HR 40 reparations bill on the state level which would also help lay the foundation for federal reparations, reported USA Today. The government had paid reparations to the Japanese Americans who were held captive in internment camps with the Civil Liberties Act 1988. Now, Japanese American leaders have rallied behind the proposal of reparations for Black Americans.
From USA Today:
Kathy Masaoka, chair of the Nikkei for Redress and Civil Rights, a group based in Los Angeles that fought for redress in the 1980s, said the Japanese American community felt strengthened after winning a battle many doubted they would win. But Masaoka said she hopes reparations for African Americans will include something she feels was missing from the Civil Liberties Act: a public education campaign about the harm done.
“If a country is really serious about correcting wrongs, a country would do like what Germany did, which is to educate their whole population,” she said.
Who would qualify for reparations? The leaders of the task force expect residents who can trace their lineage back to enslaved Black people would qualify. A report of the task force’s study findings is projected to be released in June however their fingers crossed that legislation will pass in favor of the findings.
Evanston, Illinois became the first city in 2019 to give financial reparations to its Black residents, rolling out its first round of grants last month, according to USA Today. Yet, California’s state-wide reparations bill would cover an even greater population of Black people and set the groundwork for other states to follow suit. Then, maybe, we’ll be on our way to progress.