The state becomes one of the first country's to materialize talks of reparations for Black Americans.
Reparations for descendants of Black American slaves has been a conversation had time and time again consistently leading to no clear answer. Tulsa, Oklahoma became one of the first cities to actively try to compensate the descendants of the victims and survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
While a commission was developed back in 2001 to figure out how to best payout victims, no moves were made. California may finally lead the conversation about reparations, recently launching a first-in-the-nation task force to study and recommend reparations for Black Americans. Holding the first meeting on Tuesday (June 1), the two-year process will address the harms of slavery and systemic racism despite the federal government's lack of action.
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The committee is reportedly the “first state reparations committee in the U.S.” The nine members of the task force, who were appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders, include descendants of slaves who now work as prominent lawyers, academics, and politicians. The group's elected chair is a young lawyer who specializes in intellectual property, while their vice-chair is a longtime civil rights activist arrested with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"I'm so thankful to my ancestors, who survived so much trauma, so much pain, so much tragedy, so much brutality, so that I could live," said Lisa Holder, a civil rights attorney in LA. "And I am ready to fight to deliver them — our ancestors —justice." The legislation was written by Secretary of State Shirley Weber and the task force will focus on providing summaries on discrimination against Black people, sharing their findings with the public, calculating reparation payouts, and putting together a public apology.
Critics of the new legislation note that California did not have any slaves and should therefore not be paying any reparations. To this, Weber notes that she hopes it can "point the way" to the federal government to eventually do the same.
“Some asked us why in California and why not somewhere else,” Shirley said. “Why did we not do this in the south? But we came to understand very clearly, California has the ability and the power to do it. And if not us, then who? We waited almost 40 years for Congress to basically pass HR 40.”
H.R. 40 was a national reparations bill introduced to congress back in 1989. The bill has struggled to gain the necessary support to pass both chambers of Congress. With the new California legislation, the bill may finally pass.