As California lawmakers salute the work of a landmark panel that has delved into reparation proposals for African Americans for almost two years, a state senator on the task force is warning black residents not to assume big cash payments are on the way.
Democratic Sen. Steven Bradford of Los Angeles said «anything is possible if the money is there,» but remains «realistic» in that it might be hard to get enough support for big payments at a time when lawmakers aren’t even They have debated where the money is. the money would come.
“I don’t want to raise people’s expectations and hopes that they’re going to get, you know, seven-figure checks,” Bradford said in an interview. «That’s just not happening.»
The task force approved proposals on Saturday in its final report, which will be officially delivered to lawmakers by July 1. They included estimates from economists who say the state is responsible for more than $500 billion due to decades of excessive surveillance, mass incarceration and red lining. that prevented black families from receiving loans and living in certain neighborhoods.
The panel stopped short of endorsing specific payment amounts, but recommended that «any repair program include payment in cash or its equivalent» to eligible residents. It does not delve into how the state would pay for repair programs.
Marcus Champion, a Los Angeles resident and organizer with the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, a reparations advocacy group, criticized Bradford’s comments.
“That is not the way you come to the table to pay off a historic debt,” he said. “That is not the way you come to the table in any type of negotiation. Start as high as you can go and then work from there.”
The payments are part of a long list of recommendations from the nine-member task force that has studied how the state could apologize and offer rewards for policies that drove housing discrimination, mass incarceration and health disparities far after slavery was abolished. The proposals arise when the state faces a projected budget deficit of $22.5 billion.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement that «dealing with the legacy of slavery is about much more than cash payments.»
“The independent findings and recommendations of the Reparations Task Force are a milestone in our bipartisan effort to advance justice and promote healing,” Newsom said. «We have to wait for the working group to finish its work and submit its final report.»
Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, another Los Angeles-area Democrat on the task force, took a more cautious approach in predicting the fate of payments or other repair proposals. He said in an interview that it’s too soon to know if the payments could pass the Legislature, as the deadline for the committee’s report approaches.
“We have absolutely no idea at this point what will or won’t pass,” he said.
The proposals of the working group are broad and ambitious. They include creating an agency that would help residents research their family history, promote financial education, and preserve historical and cultural sites.
The panel has also endorsed policies to increase tree canopy in historically marked areas, to provide more incarcerated people with job training to prepare them for life after their sentences, and to restore land wrongfully seized from Black families through eminent domain. .
The committee calls on the state to issue a formal, public apology for its legacy of slavery and discriminatory policies. Although California entered the union as a «free» state, it did not enact laws guaranteeing the freedom of African-Americans, the draft report says. The apology could include a condemnation of Peter Hardeman Burnett, California’s first elected governor and a white supremacist who personally enslaved people and pushed for blacks to be excluded from the state.
Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, who chairs the state Legislative Black Caucus, said in a statement that the caucus will champion the policy proposals included in the task force report.
“We look forward to working collaboratively with our legislative colleagues and Governor Newsom’s administration as we continue to fight for equity in our communities,” the San Francisco Bay Area Democrat wrote.
Newsom signed into law in 2020 creating the task force. The goal of the legislation, written by Secretary of State Shirley Weber, a former state Assemblywoman, was for the panel to study remedies for black Californians, «with special consideration for» the descendants of people who were enslaved.
Last year, the working group voted that compensation be limited to descendants of blacks living in the United States before the end of the 19th century. Most recently, the panel approved further limiting eligibility to residents who have lived in California for at least six months while certain discriminatory policies and practices were in effect, with possible exceptions.
Weber’s bill stated that a repair program in California should not be considered a “replacement” for a program at the federal level. That issue has been bogged down in Congress with a bill to create a commission to study repair proposals that hasn’t been voted on since it was first introduced in the 1980s.
No other state in the country has moved further than California in its consideration of redress proposals for African Americans. Task force chair Kamilah Moore said she is hopeful the recommendations, including agency and payments, can garner sufficient support from state lawmakers.
“We’ve gone further,” Moore said of the group’s work.