Proponents of slave reparations welcome the historic report in California

California’s first task force on reparations to African Americans will release a report Wednesday detailing the damage done by the state and recommending steps to address the violations, including expanded voter registration that makes it easier to prosecute violent police. and improving black quarters.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The Reparations Movement for Slavery reached a turning point on Wednesday when a comprehensive report was published detailing California’s role in perpetuating discrimination against African Americans, a major step toward public education and training. for a formal apology to the government and the case. for a financial return.

The 500-page document sets out the damage suffered by the descendants of enslaved people even today, long after the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, through discriminatory laws and actions in all walks of life, from housing and education to work and the legal system.

A longtime advocate for reparations Justin Hansford, who is a professor of law at Howard University and director of the Turgud Marshall Center for Civil Rights in Washington, D.C., called the moment fascinating and monumental.

“It’s important to have official details of these stories coming from the state,” he said. “I know a lot of people say we don’t need to continue research, but the reality is, as long as it doesn’t come from some source that people think is objective, then it will be harder to convince everyone of some of the inequalities described. ».

The report comes at a time when school boards and states across the U.S. are banning books or restricting what can be taught in classrooms, and parents and lawmakers are strongly opposed to topics of sexuality, gender identity, or race. State lawmakers have tried to ban schools from teaching Project 1619, a Pulitzer Prize-winning report from the New York Times that reviews American history with enslaved people at the center.

California is moving in the opposite direction, said Adam Laats, a historian at the University of Bingham, who called the document excellent in his adamant story, including details of how Los Angeles police and district attorneys a century ago were members or ties to the Ku Club. -clan.

“Who the children need to learn are the main characters in the story that we, as a nation, have always been a real lightning rod,” he said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law establishing a two-year task force in 2020, making California the only state to advance the study and plan. Cities and universities have taken up the cause: Chicago suburb Evanston, Illinois, became the first city to make reparations available to black residents last year.

On Wednesday, Newsom issued a statement praising California for leading the country in long-awaited discussions of racial justice and fairness. State Attorney General Rob Bont, whose office is assisting the task force, said: “California has not been a passive actor in maintaining this damage.”

Similar efforts are being made to delve into what News called a dark history of violence, abuse and neglect of Native Americans in California. The Truth and Healing Council report, due to be published in 2025, may include recommendations on reparations. Many tribes across the country sought to acquire the land of their ancestors and jointly rule the state land.

The African-American Task Force on Reparations, which began meeting in June 2021, will publish a comprehensive reparations plan next year. In March, the committee voted to limit the payment of reparations to descendants of African Americans living in the U.S. in the 19th century, rejecting supporters who wanted to extend compensation to all black people in the United States.

“Four hundred years of discrimination have led to a huge and persistent wealth gap between black and white Americans,” said a report by the California Task Force on Exploring and Developing Reparations Proposals for African Americans.

“These effects of slavery continue to take root in American society today and have never been sufficiently eliminated. The governments of the United States and the state of California have never apologized or compensated African Americans for these damages. “

California is home to the fifth largest black population in the United States after Texas, Florida, Georgia and New York, the report said. An estimated 2.8 million black people live in California, but it is unclear how many are eligible for direct compensation.

African Americans make up less than 6% of California’s population, but they are overrepresented in prisons, youth centers and prisons. About 28% of people in California are black, and in 2019, 36% of juveniles sent to state juvenile detention centers were African American.

Blacks in California earn less and are more likely to be poorer than whites. In 2018, black residents earned an average of just under $ 54,000 compared to $ 87,000 for white Californians.

“We don’t have homes, and if you look at why there is such a huge difference between African Americans and white Americans and our ability to hold and maintain wealth, it’s because we don’t have homes,” said Assembly member Reggie Jones. Sawyer, member of the task force.

The main initial recommendations of the task force include reform of the prison system. Prisoners cannot be forced to work, and if they do, they must be paid a fair market wage. Prisoners should also be allowed to vote, and people convicted of serious crimes should be on the jury.

The group recommends creating a state-subsidized mortgage program to guarantee low rates for qualified African-American applicants, free health care, free tuition at California colleges and universities, and scholarships for African-American high school graduates for a four-year undergraduate degree.

The committee also calls for the introduction of a cabinet-level secretary to oversee the African American Agency with offices on civic activism, education, social services, culture and law. This would help people research and document their ancestry from the 19th century ancestor so they can claim financial restitution.

People who oppose the payment of reparations claim that in California there were no plantations or laws of the Jim Crow era like in the south.

But the interim report shows how California, despite being “free,” has perpetuated the damage that has escalated over the generations.

It noted that Missouri native Basil Campbell was bought for $ 1,200 and forced to move to Yola County, California in 1854, leaving a wife and two sons. Campbell eventually paid the purchase price, married and became a landowner. But when his sons petitioned for part of his property after his death, a California judge ruled that a marriage between two enslaved people “is not a marital relationship”.

Most recently, the house of Paul Austin and Tenisha Tate-Austin is said to have been valued at a much lower price because it was located in the predominantly black part of the elite Marin County, where African Americans have been forced to live since World War II.

The report should suggest other cities and states – and ultimately the federal government – a plan to seek reparations, members said. Over the next year, the task force will take on the difficult task of developing an apology and establishing a reparations plan to compensate and stop the damage.

“The big question is: what will they do with it? The danger here is that everyone is reading, nodding their heads and waiting for the task force to initiate a response, ”said Hansford, a law professor. “We need universities, local authorities, businesses and others to work together to implement the recommendations proposed in the report.”


AP writers Cheyan Mumfrey of Phoenix, Arizona, and Felicia Fonseca of Albuquerque, New Mexico, have contributed.

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