Reparations

California Reparations Task Force Delays Vote On Eligibility Question


California’s push for reparations seems to be on hold for now. The nation’s first reparations task force has delayed a critical vote that will decide who is eligible to receive reparations. The task force will revisit the issue in March.

The nine-member task force was created in 2020 by the passage of Assembly Bill 3121. The delay came as the task force met for the seventh month. The group, which first convened in June 2021, is tasked with documenting historical harms of slavery and determining what reparations for African Americans should look like in California, ABC News reported.

On Feb. 24, the task force voted 5-4 to delay a vote on the matter and continue the discussion until March.

In January’s meeting, California Secretary of State Shirley Webber, who authored the bill, suggested reparations for African Americans should be limited to people whose ancestors were kidnapped from their homeland, stripped of their ancestry, and sold into slavery in America. 

The historic reparations bill, written by Weber, was passed by the California Assembly in June 2021. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed off on it in November 2021.

Weber pointed out that reparations are due only to those whose forebears were kidnapped from their African homeland, stripped of their ancestry, and endured generations of forced labor

However, others on the California task force felt reparations should be open to anyone who is Black. “If you have Black skin, you are catching hell in this country,” said task force member Lisa Holder.

Weber said she would not have written the legislation if she had known that the pool of recipients would be expanded, leaving mere pennies for the descendants of slaves.

She acknowledged that Black immigrants also suffer from racism in the U.S., but she said there is a distinction. Immigrants have the option to return to their native country. Black descendants of slaves had no land they could return to.

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Additionally, slavery was more than a physical condition, she pointed out. Its psychological impact affected Black people’s ability to strive beyond survival.

Barack Obama, she said, likely never would have aspired to become president had he descended from enslaved people. While the country’s first Black president did not have slave ancestors, his Black father was from Kenya and came to the U.S. to study. His white mother’s ancestors were slave owners. Obama, Weber said, “did not have limitations and fears drilled in his psyche, and thus aspired to become the president of the United States.”

Some on Twitter expressed impatience with the delay.

“Governor’s Edition* After months of strong public input, clear direction from the author of the Reparations bill & the best legal advice all for lineage eligibility, the CA Reparations Task Force voted to DELAY an eligibility vote. CALL to ACTION,” tweeted Chris Sacramento Organizer (@chrisorganizsac).

In 1850, California entered the union as a slavery-free state. Still, slavery was rampant and California benefited from the exploitation of enslaved Black and Indigenous people, as documented by “Gold Chains: The Hidden History of Slavery in California,” a public education campaign by the American Civil Liberties Union. “Gold Chains” is an exhaustive look at the hidden history of slavery in California, KQED reported. 

Photo: African-American field hands picking cotton, late 1800s. Hand-colored woodcut of a 19th-century illustration. (North Wind Picture Archives via AP Images)



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