What reparations could look like for Black Californians as task force prepares for final vote

Julian Glover Image
Saturday, May 6, 2023
What reparations would look like for Black Californians
Here's what reparations would look like for Black Californians as the task force prepares for the final vote in Oakland Saturday.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The California State Reparations Task force has been at work for almost two years now studying and developing reparations proposals for Black Californians that can trace their heritage back to an enslaved person. Saturday, in the penultimate meeting in Oakland, the group will vote on what reparations could look like.

"It's very work intensive, this final kind of phase that we're in," said Kamilah Moore, Chair of California's first-in-the-nation state level reparations task force. "I would say we're in the thick of the most challenging aspect of the work right now."

The task force that Moore overseas was created by the passage of AB 3121, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in the shadow of the murder of George Floyd and massive protests for racial justice that followed.

The job of the task force has been two-fold. First, study slavery and its lingering negative effects on African Americans. Second, to develop proposals for remedies for the atrocities of that harm through policy changes and potentially cash payments.

Those recommendations have been drafted at public forums that have traveled the state, like the meeting that will take place Saturday at Mills College in Oakland.

ABC7 News anchor and race and social justice reporter Julian Glover sat down with several members of the nine-person task force to get a better understanding of the recommendations that will be voted on Saturday and delivered to lawmakers in July.

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For those wondering why California and Californians should be on the hook for reparations, Jovan Scott Lewis, Ph.D., a member of the task force said the reason is clear.

"The idea that California has a role to play in this is, is actually very straightforward," he said. "We think about lingering effects, we are thinking about things like Jim Crow racism. We're thinking about the use of eminent domain in the dismantling of African American communities, in many ways to facilitate the development of the state."

Lewis suggest that those "linger effects" of slavery, anti-Black racism and exclusionary policies are still felt by Black folks today.

"The kind of principles that were first enacted during slavery found themselves showing up in various ways, soon thereafter, and have in many ways continued to impact the lives and opportunities for African Americans in the state of California," he added.

The task force focused on these lingering effects of slavery in its 500-page interim report released last summer. The report, that represents the work of the first year of the task force, details twelve areas of harms to be addressed from the unjust legal system to housing discrimination, separate and unequal education, to racism in the environment and infrastructure.

Of the dozen harms identified, the task force highlights policy changes to address seven areas and a combination of policy and cash payments to address the other five.

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Lewis, oversaw the team of economist who had the tough task of crunching the numbers based on hard evidence.

"We are not giving people money. We are returning monies taken, returning monies stolen, returning the monies that had been lost based upon the kinds of dispossession and disenfranchisement faced by Black Californians," he said.

The team of economists have calculated that a Black Californian at least 71 years old that can trace their lineage back to an enslaved person could receive up to $1.2 million in cash payments if the recommendations set forth are voted into law by the legislature.

The total amounts to $966,000 for health harms that disproportionally effect Black Californians, $159,000 for mass incarceration and over-policing, and up to $148,000 for housing discrimination.

The drafts of the report released to date make it clear that these numbers are subject to change as new information becomes available.

The work of the task force was not to conduct a feasibility study-there's no mention of how these payments would be funded.

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It's important to note, none of this comes to pass unless the state legislature agrees to adopt all or some of the group's recommendations.

"How feasible is it? How likely is it that the recommendations that you will put forward to the state legislature will actually come to be?" asked ABC7's Julian Glover.

"We don't want our interim report or a final report to collect dust on the shelf," said Chair Moore.

As the work of the task force nears completion, Don Tamaki, the only non-Black member of the group says it will take Californians of all walks of life to see reparations happen.

"It's a matter of justice. It's a morality issue," said Tamaki. "I'm Japanese American and we know something about being incarcerated, losing our property. I think we have a duty basically, to speak out."

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For the countless Black Californians who have traveled the state, closely watching the taskforce's work they say the time to act is now.

"My great grandfather was a sharecropper, who had 17 children, and worked from sunup to sundown and died with absolutely nothing. They took his land and created laws to keep his land," said Andrea Jordan, a Black resident of Sacramento.

"What do you think he would say about you being here today, making sure your voice is heard carrying on his legacy?" asked ABC7's Julian Glover.

"I would hope that he would be proud and know that I stand on his shoulders. And there are no better soldiers to stand on then my people," Jordan responded.

The task force will have one final meeting in June before it releases its report to the public and state legislators for consideration.

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