U.S. Rep. Karen Bass made history Wednesday as the first woman elected to serve as mayor of the city of Los Angeles. She is also only the second Black person to hold the seat in the city’s 241-year history, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.
Both facts are a point of pride for activists working towards achieving true racial justice and equity, but where does Bass stand on reparations?
On the night of Nov. 16, Bass began a Twitter thread with the words, “THANK YOU, LOS ANGELES,” along with a photo of her hugging a supporter.
It was the same night she was declared the winner of a tight race in which she was outspent by her opponent, billionaire businessman Rick Caruso, to the tune of 100 million dollars.
Bass, 69, has served in Congress for six terms and initially led Caruso, 63, in the polls. However, by the time of the midterm elections on Nov. 8, Caruso’s massive wealth, celebrity endorsements and smear campaigns against Bass had them locked in a heated race that could have gone either way.
On election night, the race seesawed several times, but the congresswoman eventually prevailed.
“The people of Los Angeles have sent a clear message: it is time for change and it is time for urgency,” Bass said in a statement. She also pledged to represent all Los Angelenos, despite whom they voted for.
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“No matter who you voted for, I will be a mayor for YOU. That’s the only way forward,” Bass tweeted on Thursday night. “The crises we are facing affect us all, and all of us must be a part of the solution. Together, we will get big things done in this city.”
Caruso conceded to Bass on Wednesday.
“I’m proud of the work we did to engage long-neglected communities, giving a voice to the unheard, and to the light we shined on the biggest challenges facing our great city,” Caruso said in a statement. “There will be more to come from the movement we built, but for now, as a city we need to unite around Mayor-elect Bass and give her the support she needs to tackle the many issues we face. Congratulations, Karen, and God-speed.”
While Bass has expressed her desire to help all of Los Angeles, reparations advocates are interested in knowing where she stands.
“Congrats to @KarenBassLA, now we want to know what you going to do about Californians getting Reparations? You been dodging that Question since 2019,” @ranon_j tweeted after Bass won. “It’s a big reason alot black men in Los Angeles didn’t vote for you.”
Another Twitter user came to Bass’ defense, saying it only takes a google search to learn Bass position on reparations.
“She supports Reparations, you can google her@ Karen Bass on Reparations. Very smart woman,” @CJEssex wrote. “On code, but she represents a gentrified Los Angeles. That needs to be reversed, but most of us have moved away. L.A. is browner than ever! Compton, Watts, Inglewood undergoing gentrification!”
Though Bass hasn’t spoken recently about her stance on reparations, in 2020, she testified at a hearing supporting H.R. 40 — the bill that seeks to establish a federal commission to study and develop reparations proposals for African Americans.
“This is just such an important moment in our history,” Bass said during the hearing. “It’s so important because I believe that in this country, we have never been able to come to grips with our history. We either don’t know our history or we deny it.”
“Slavery might’ve ended in the mid-1800s, but apartheid and terrorism lasted for 100 years after that,” Bass continued. “In our country, we pride ourselves with our development, but we refuse to acknowledge that the reason why we have the development that we do is because the first 200 years of our history was done with free labor.”
Bass, who served as chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus in 2019 and 2020, said it “should be obvious” the entire CBC supports HR40.
She also called out those who opposed reparations as a handout to Black Americans as being insultingly audacious.
“We trivialize reparations by saying that these are just African Americans that want to be paid. Mr. [Ta-Nehisi] Coates goes into details about reparations meaning much more than that,” Bass said.
“Frankly, when I hear from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle that we need to be encouraged to work harder, to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, that we can actually achieve, that that’s the only thing that’s the problem and then to talk about the Democratic Party, I think maybe people don’t remember who Fannie Lou Hamer was,” Bass continued.
“Black folks fought the Democratic Party. Nobody acts as though the Democratic Party was not a racist party until there was a movement that fought for justice,” Bass began her conclusion.
“I just want to emphasize, at what point can we, in this country, have a conversation about race? We will never get past it until we can have the conversation and the conversation begins with a commission,” she said.
PHOTO: Los Angeles Mayor-elect Karen Bass speaks at a news conference in Los Angeles, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. Bass defeated developer Rick Caruso to become the next mayor of Los Angeles on Wednesday, making her the first Black woman to hold the post as City Hall contends with an out-of-control homeless crisis, rising crime rates and multiple scandals that have shaken trust in government. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)