California has set a precedent for examining reparations in the United States. In 2020 Assemblymember Shirley Weber presented Assembly Bill 3121 to establish the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans. As stated in the bill, the Reparations Task Force was tasked to study the institution of slavery and its lingering adverse effects. The Task Force consists of 9 members and requires them to submit a written report of its findings and recommendations to the California Legislature.
The Reparations Interim Report was published on June 1, 2022, by the California Reparations Task Force (CA RTF). A final report is expected to be published by July 1, 2023, outlining reparations recommendations. The interim report detailed the state’s history of slavery and racism and recommended ways that the Legislature could do to redress California’s role in the systemic racism of African Americans. The report is divided into an executive summary, key findings, and preliminary recommendations. The report can be found here: Interim Reparation Report
CLOSING THE WEALTH GAP
A specific plan for reparations in California has yet to be determined; it could be everything from direct cash payments, land transfers, and investing in African American owned businesses and schools. In September, the Task Force heard from a team of economic experts examining how to calculate the compensation. Their preliminary numbers indicate that California would need at least $640 billion, exceeding California’s total annual budget. The expert group will continue to look at different models of compensation.
The CA RTF has provided several opportunities for residents to partake and inform potential policies to create transformative change. The CA RTF contracted UCLA’s Bunche Center to investigate, collect, and document community perspectives around reparations. The Bunche Center worked with seven organizations during the summer to host listening sessions and distribute a survey. The Bunche’s center presentation can be found here: Bunche’s Center PowerPoint. The Task Force will continue providing ongoing opportunities for residents to provide feedback and raise other concerns. The CA RTF will be hosting its last task force of the year on December 14 and 15, 2022. California Reparations Task Force hearings are open to the public and can be watched in person or virtually. The first hour of the CA RTF meetings is for public comment; find the agenda here: Meeting Details.
The work of the CA RTF is an ongoing process. In conjunction with the California Department of Justice, the task force will review the community members’ feedback, check in with the economic experts, and build off the current interim recommendations. The CA RTF will submit its final report with recommendations and make its way through the California Legislature, where it may adopt those recommendations. The work could set a precedent for House Bill H.R. 40 or other reparation efforts across the state (Los Angeles City, Palm Springs, San Francisco) and country. It is our opportunity to begin healing and providing a future for atonement.
The work towards reparations had been long due for centuries. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, and the 13th Amendment ended chattel slavery in 1865; however, the US Government and California perpetuated and created new iterations of harm to formerly enslaved Africans and their descendants to this day. African Americans are the only group who have not received reparations for state-sanctioned racial discrimination. Instead, reparations have been given to groups like Native Americans, Japanese Americans, and Jews. There have been attempts to atone for slavery, such as 40 Acres and a Mule, proposed by General Sherman but was reversed by Andrew Johnson; and policies during the New Deal to redress Americans’ racial wrongs through the G.I. Bill and Social Security. Recently, a couple of other states have made attempts to redressing reparations, such as in Asheville, North Carolina, and Evanston, Illinois; and then on a federal level with the HR 40 Bill, which remains stalled in Congress.
California is the first in the nation to put together a task force to study reparations. The CA RTF was tasked with identifying and synthesizing data on the effects of institutional slavery and providing recommendations to engage with the California public and recommend appropriate remedies. The recommendations that the CA RTF has proposed could affect areas of education, health systems, reforming the justice system and possibly creating new government departments. In addition, these recommendations would have ripple effects on Black Californians, Indigenous, People of Color, and the working class. Community Health Councils supports reparations for Black Californians, and we will continue monitoring and finding ways to ensure the work of CA RTF moves to fruition.