Credit: (universityofcalifornia.edu) and (twitter.com)

Breanna Reeves |

California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans released an interim report on June 1 detailing the history and legacy of slavery across the nation and in California.

The report, nearly 500 pages long and divided into 13 chapters,  examines the role and influence of slavery through the lens of a series of economic, political, social and cultural experiences,  and scrutinizes how the remnants of slavery continue to generate barriers to African American prosperity. 

Background

Initially developed in 2020 under Assembly Bill 3121, the Reparations Task Force has spent the last two years examining what reparations in California could look like and who would be eligible. The interim report was submitted to the California Legislature and a final report will be issued by 2023. The final report is expected to include specific details regarding the monetary amount of compensation for eligible Black Californians.

California’s first Black Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber authored Assembly Bill 3121 while serving in the Assembly and leading the California Legislative Black Caucus. (image source: sos.gov)

According to Task Force Chair Kamilah Moore, compiling the report took a year and is considered to be the “most extensive government-issued report on the African American community since the Kerner Commission in 1968.” Beginning with an analysis of the atlantic slave trade, the report evaluates the legacy of chattel slavery, Emancipation, Reconstruction and Jim Crow and the how these historical, oppressive eras perpetuate present-day harms.

“Thus, it is my hope that people in California and across the United States utilize this report as an educational and organizing tool, as this interim report exceeds expectations in substantiating the claim for reparations for the African American/American Freedmen community on the municipal, state and federal levels,” said Moore in a press release.

Compiling the report took a year and is to be the “most extensive government-issued report on the African American community since the Kerner Commission in 1968,” explained Task Force Chair Kamilah Moore. (image source: youtube.com)

Key Takeaways

The report acknowledges local, state and federal policies that inflicted harm against Black people and continue to influence current discriminatory practices that sustain inequity.

  • The prevalence of the wealth gap between white and Black households is evidence of government policies, like subsidized low-cost loans that overwhelmingly benefitted new white homeowners, that allowed white people to accumulate wealth.

The report noted that in 2019, the median Black household  had a net worth of $24,100, while white households had a net worth of $188,200.

  • Federal, state and local governments created segregation through discriminatory federal housing policies, zoning ordinances, decisions on where to build schools, and discriminatory federal mortgage policies known as redlining.”
  • As evidenced by local and state government policies such as eminent domain that resulted in stealing land from Black people like Willa and Charles Bruce in the 1920s, the report registered the impact of federally-funded policies that “also destroyed Black homes and communities through park and highway construction, urban renewal and by other means.”
  • The “historical criminalization” of Black Californians “for the purposes of social control, and to maintain an economy based on exploited Black labor,” was highlighted. The report cited the disproportionate prison population which is made up of 28% Black people, despite only making up 6% of the state’s population and  identifies the mass incarceration of Black people — among other inequities like over-policing of Black neighborhoods — as “an enduring badge of slavery.”
In 1912 Willa and Charles Bruce bought land in the Los Angeles County seaside community of Manhattan Beach. (image source: linkedin.com)

Preliminary Recommendations

The report also includes a series of preliminary recommendations that identify ways to implement laws, repeal discriminatory legislation and eliminate other practices rooted in institutional racism.  The recommendations include:

  • Restoring rights to people who are incarcerated such as restoring their right to vote and being paid a fair market rate for labor performed while incarcerated.
  • Compensating individuals who were forcibly removed from their homes as a result of state or local action such as urban renewal or highway construction.
  • Repealing “the effects of crime-free housing policies that disproportionately limit Black residents’ access to housing.”
  • Instituting a K-12 “Black Studies curriculum” that details the truth about historical racial inequities and systemic racism and recognizes the contributions of Black people throughout history (outside of Black History Month). 
One recommendation of the Reparations Task force is to institute a K-12 “Black Studies curriculum” outside of Black History Month. (image source: yahoo.com)

California African American Freedmen Affairs Agency

A final preliminary recommendation in the report calls for the establishment of the California African American Freedmen Affairs Agency that will be responsible for implementing the recommendations outlined by the task force. The cabinet’s role will be to “identify past harms, prevent future harm, work with other state agencies and branches of California’s government to mitigate harms,” as well as suggest policies designed to compensate for the harms.

“Without accountability, there is no justice. For too long, our nation has ignored the harms that have been — and continue to be — inflicted on African Americans in California and across the country,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta in a statement. 

“California was not a passive actor in perpetuating these harms. We must double down on our efforts to address discrimination in our state and nation and take a hard look at our own history, including at the California Department of Justice.”

Breanna Reeves

Breanna Reeves is a reporter in Riverside, California, and uses data-driven reporting to cover issues that affect the lives of Black Californians. Breanna joins Black Voice News as a Report for America Corps member. Previously, Breanna reported on activism and social inequality in San Francisco and Los Angeles, her hometown. Breanna graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in Print & Online Journalism. She received her master’s degree in Politics and Communication from the London School of Economics. Contact Breanna with tips, comments or concerns at breanna@voicemediaventures.com or via twitter @_breereeves.