Lawmakers in California are setting up a task force intended to develop a plan on recommending reparations for African Americans in the state, and examining what that process might look like.
The state senate voted 33-3 on Saturday to support the creation of a nine-member commission to develop a reparations plan. The measure will still need to pass a final vote in the Assembly, but an overwhelming majority of the Assembly members are expected to be in favor of the bill.
Democratic Sen. Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles said that Black people still face significant challenges from the aftermath of slavery.
“Let’s be clear: Chattel slavery, both in California and across our nation, birthed a legacy of racial harm and inequity that continues to impact the conditions of Black life in California,” Mitchell said, according to the Associated Press.
Mitchell pointed to disproportionate rates of poverty, incarceration, homelessness, and health risks for African Americans as proof of the unequal conditions that remain from the times of slavery. California was technically a free state long before many of the others, but the bill’s supporters say there were still many structural barriers that were intentionally set up in the state to reinforce a racial caste system, and many of these barriers still exist today.
If the bill passes, the new task force will conduct a detailed study into how the state was affected by slavery and they will make recommendations to the legislature based on their findings by July 2023. Their recommendations will include who is entitled to reparations, how much they should get, and what form the payment should come in.
California is not the first state to consider a push for reparations, other states including Texas, New York, and Vermont have also considered similar legislation in recent years. Some of the ideas put forward in the proposed bills in other states included cash payments, housing assistance, lower tuition, forgiving student loans, job training, or community investments.
Sen. Steven Bradford, a Democrat from Gardena who supported the bill, said he only wished it was more than a study.
“If the 40 acres and a mule that was promised to free slaves were delivered to the descendants of those slaves today, we would all be billionaires. I hear far too many people say, ‘Well, I didn’t own slaves, that was so long ago.’ Well, you inherit wealth — you can inherit the debt that you owe to African-Americans,” Bradford said.
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