Could California be the first State to Pay Reparations?

California Reparation- Slavery in the United States is often depicted as confined to the cotton fields and sugar plantations of the South, where slaves were enslaved and their labor was used to sustain the economy.

The experiences of thousands of enslaved African Americans, especially those transported to California in the middle of the 19th century, are left out of these accounts. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom established the California Reparations Task Force, which calls for reparatory justice while also recalling the state’s history.

When the task committee began its investigation in 2021, it produced an interim report that examined the state’s history of slavery, as well as the mistreatment of Black Californians since the state was created in 1850, to determine what a reparations scheme for the state would look like.

Although the 13th Amendment was meant to abolish slavery in the United States, the research found that California has continued to create new instances of injury that have “been innumerable and has snowballed over centuries,” despite the amendment’s mandate.

Since the Kerner Commission’s findings in 1968 that racism was a driving force behind the riots of the late 1960s, the study has been the most comprehensive government-issued report on the race. People should use it as an “educational and organizational tool,” she suggested.

Besides the original harms of enslavement and racial terror, the American and Californian governments engaged in political disenfranchisement against Black people established housing segregation, separate and unequal education, and that racism influenced infrastructure development, creating environmental injustice. Black children are over-represented in child welfare and juvenile justice systems, the report found, and the federal and state governments have made it harder for Black families to stay together. They have also made it harder for Black Americans to find work and have made it more difficult for them to accumulate wealth.

California’s racial wealth gap remains poorly studied, but a few studies in Los Angeles have shown the discrepancy to exist. White Angelenos’ median net worth was $355,000 in 2016, whereas the median net worth of native-born Black Angelenos was $4,000 at the time of the survey. While white households’ median liquid assets were $110,000, the median value of liquid assets for black households was $200.

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According to a report by the Reparations Task Force, both the state and federal governments should pay reparations. However, several important issues need to be investigated further by the commission. Specifically, how would restitution be implemented? How much would it cost California?

California’s history of terror easily makes the case for reparations

The report’s authors point out that despite efforts to stop slavery from spreading westward, the state’s relationship with the institution has had long-lasting consequences.

Some 1,500 enslaved Black people were reported to be living on the West Coast as early as 1852 by a report from 1852. Even though California became a free state in 1850, this remained the reality. Young men and teenage boys were mainly trafficked for gold mine employment during the state’s gold rush.

As a result of an 1852 law that made it “a more pro-slavery state than most other free states,” the report stated, “the state became more pro-slavery.” As a result of the law, state officials were forced to assist captors in the capture of enslaved people who had fled to free states. They were also penalized for trying to assist those fleeing slavery, and their legal rights were severely curtailed. If you were accused of being a fugitive slave between 1852 and 1855, even if you had been residing in the free state of California since 1850, you could be deported back to the South.

Reconstruction-era federal reforms included abolishing slavery, providing equal protection of the law, and granting equal voting rights; nevertheless, California was hesitant to follow suit. It wasn’t until 1959 and 1962 that the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were ratified.

Today, many of the repercussions of California’s early past can still be felt. There were more Ku Klux Klan gatherings in California than in Mississippi or Louisiana, according to a report. KKK members occupied key positions in administration and law enforcement at the time.

When it came to housing, development, and education, policymakers were guided by racial bias. Government policies such as redlining, zoning regulations, and discriminatory mortgage practices resulted in the creation of racial segregation. Due to “sundown town” limitations, black people were sometimes prohibited from settling in entire towns and cities, such as the suburbs outside of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

While white communities thrived, black ones suffered because the government aggressively bulldozed black neighborhoods for purported “urban renewal” and “park development,” the report states. Since the state Supreme Court determined in 1874 that segregation in public schools was legal, this segregation was also a part of school life. School desegregation efforts in California have been continuously unsuccessful a century later, and the state is now the sixth most segregated in the country for Black pupils, according to research quoted in the article.

Contrasts in other aspects of California life, such as the high number of Black people in the state’s legal system as a result of police enforcement’s predisposition to stop and arrest them, are also evident in the state today.

“California has this history and the formal plan that we submit to the governor will represent the kinds of terror that Black people in California had to face,” Moore said.

Is California able to pay for it?

Numerous preliminary recommendations are made in the report to rectify the glaring inequities it uncovers.

California’s task panel advises that the state amend its constitution to eliminate slavery as a form of punishment for crimes, for example. According to the report, to combat racial fear, the state should eliminate all state law immunities that protect against police misbehavior. The authors propose policies to address unequal exposure to contaminants as a means of redressing environmental racism. The task panel also wants the state to provide education subsidies to Black pupils as a way to combat educational inequity.

Task force proposals are comprehensive, but no financial rewards to Black Californians have been suggested, which supporters argue could be the most impactful for the state’s people. For each qualified Black household, economists have projected that reparations will cost the federal government between $10 trillion and $12 trillion.

Nevertheless, the task team hasn’t completely ruled it out. As a result, it has issued an interim report, and members aim to do further study and discussions before submitting its final report to Gov. Newsom. Moore said that the state’s predicted $97.5 billion budget surplus makes it possible for the state to pay reparations in the form of cash.

California, according to Moore, “does have the budget to give restitution in the form of monetary compensation,” he said.

39.5 million people call California home, with 2.8 million, or 6%, identifying themselves as Black by 2020. Reparations for enslaved people will only be paid out to Black Californians who can verify their ancestry directly through their family tree. The amount would be within the state budget, according to Moore.

According to some critics, the government’s exclusion of Black Americans from programs like Social Security and Veterans Affairs should be recompensed by financial distributions to make up for the government’s racial wealth disparity.

All of these considerations will be taken into account by the task team, according to Moore.

Moore stated, “We still have a lot to consider.” A written apology and payment for rehabilitation, social services, and medical services will be included in the final plan for reparations.

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