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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

California Task Force on Reparations Votes to Limit Compensation to Descendants of Slaves [UPDATED]

State compensation will only go to descendants of free and enslaved Black people in the U.S. in the 19th century.

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This image made from video from the Office of the Governor shows California Gov. Gavin Newsom signing into law a bill that establishes a task force to come up with recommendations on how to give reparations to Black Americans on Sept. 30, 2020, in Sacramento, Calif.
This image made from video from the Office of the Governor shows California Gov. Gavin Newsom signing into law a bill that establishes a task force to come up with recommendations on how to give reparations to Black Americans on Sept. 30, 2020, in Sacramento, Calif.
Photo: Office of the Governor (AP)

The California task force on reparations voted Tuesday that compensation will only go to descendants of free and enslaved people who were in the United States during the 19th century. The proposal to include all Black people in the country regardless of ancestry was rejected, according to the Associated Press.

Members of the task force voted on the proposals after hours of debate. The vote was split 5-4.

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In 2020, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation creating the California Reparations Task Force. It was the first task force of its kind in the country to move forward with a plan to study the institution of slavery and share with the public what they find.

Last month, Democrats in the House of Representatives thought they had enough votes to pass legislation that would authorize a commission on reparations for African-Americans.

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One year ago, Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, was the first city in the country to launch a reparations program for Black residents where they would allocate $415,000 towards grants for homeownership and repairs and applicants can receive up to $25,000 in grants and mortgage assistance if they can prove they are descendants of Black people who lived in Evanston from 1919 to 1969.

As reflected in the vote, members of the task force were split on how compensation should be divvied out to Black citizens. Some thought it should be divvied out to descendants of enslaved people while others will argue that all Black people in the United States deserve compensation, regardless of ancestry because they all suffer from systemic racism.

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From the Associated Press:

California’s task force members — nearly all of whom can trace their families back to enslaved ancestors in the U.S. — were aware that their deliberations over a pivotal question will shape reparations discussions across the country. The members were appointed by the governor and the leaders of the two legislative chambers.

Those favoring a lineage approach said that a compensation and restitution plan based on genealogy as opposed to race has the best chance of surviving a legal challenge. They also opened eligibility to free Black people who migrated to the country before the 20th century, given possible difficulties in documenting family history and the risk at the time of becoming enslaved.

Others on the task force argued that reparations should include all Black people in the U.S. who suffer from systemic racism in housing, education and employment and said they were defining eligibility too soon in the process.

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Lisa Holder, a member of the task force and a civil rights attorney, suggested that economists with the task force use all of the Black residents in California (2.6 million) to calculate compensation while they still continue to hear the thoughts from the public, according to the Associated Press.

Kamilah Moore, a lawyer and chair of the task force said expanding who is eligible for compensation would create another set of problems and was not the purpose of the committee.

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More from the Associated Press:

Reparations critics say that California has no obligation to pay up given that the state did not practice slavery and did not enforce Jim Crow laws that segregated Black people from white people in the southern states.

But testimony provided to the committee shows California and local governments were complicit in stripping Black people of their wages and property, preventing them from building wealth to pass down to their children. Their homes were razed for redevelopment, and they were forced to live in predominantly minority neighborhoods and couldn’t get bank loans that would allow them to purchase property.

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Compensation for Black residents could include, free college, assistance with opening businesses and buying homes, and grants to community organizations and churches, according to the Associated Press.

A report is due in June and a proposal on reparations is due in July 2023 for the Legislature to determine turning into law.