10 Things To Know About Lawmaker Shirley Weber, Sponsor Of The California Reparations Bill

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Written by Ann Brown
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10 Things To Know About Lawmaker Shirley Weber, The Sponsor of California Reparations Bill(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a historic bill on Sept. 30 to create a task force to recommend reparations for slavery and determine who should be eligible to receive compensation. With this legislation, California became the first state government in the country to consider reparations. A major push from ADOS made the move possible along with Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus, who authored the AB 3121.

“California has come to terms with many of its issues, but it has yet to come to terms with its role in slavery,” Weber said. “We’re talking about really addressing the issues of justice and fairness in this country that we have to address.”

Here are 10 things to know about Weber.

1. Humble beginnings

Weber’s parents were sharecroppers on a 100-acre farm in Hope, Arkansas. When she was 3 years old, her family was forced to flee Arkansas and moved to California. Her father had refused to back down during a dispute with a white farmer, and a lynch mob threatened to kill him, Cal Matters reported.

2. Education mattered

Weber’s father believed that education would lead his daughter to a better life. She attended UCLA, where she received her bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. by the age of 26. Prior to receiving her doctorate, Weber became a professor at San Diego State University at the age of 23. Dr. Weber also taught at California State University at Los Angeles and Los Angeles City College before coming to San Diego State University, according to her Assembly bio.

3. Refused to buckle

While she was working on her Ph.D., Weber did her dissertation on Black nationalist Marcus Garvey. But she learned that none of the senior professors in her department were willing to serve on her review committee, a move that could have destroyed her chances of earning a doctoral degree.

“They told me to go away,” she told Cal Matters. 

She did not go away. Instead, she threatened to seek an injunction against the university. The department backed down.

4. Unflinching in her duties

Dr. Weber is considered an education reformer “who doesn’t flinch when taking on the powerful teachers union, shrugs off setbacks, and ‘just won’t die’ on the issues she cares about,” Cal Matters reported.

“I don’t fear that I’m going to get lynched at night or that someone is going to bomb my house. I don’t fear that,” Weber said. “What my predecessors stood for and fought for was a whole lot harder than what I’m fighting for today.”

She is chairwoman of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Public Safety. She also serves as a member of the Assembly Standing Committees on Education, Higher Education, Elections, Budget, and Banking and Finance.

5. Shout out to Ice Cube

When the news was announced that bill had been signed by the governor, hip-hop mogul and reparations supporter Ice Cube tweeted a shout out in support. Weber later tweeted back, “I want to thank @icecube for his help with bringing awareness to #ab3121! We need your help with #YesOn16, a critical measure on the ballot this November!”

6. Federal or local

While Weber said she thinks reparations should be decided on a federal level, it may take too long for this to happen. 

“I think it should start at the federal level, but will it?” Weber told The Los Angeles Times. “The fact that it didn’t doesn’t mean I need to stand here crying for the next 40, 50 years until it starts at the federal level.”

7. More than money

Weber said she hopes the task force will look at forms of reparations beyond cash payments, The L.A. Times reported.

Referencing an unfulfilled 1865 order by the Union to give freed slaves “40 acres and a mule,” she suggested down payments for a home and ways to provide access to better education among other potential areas of consideration. These, she noted, would be a way to build wealth.

“When you start looking at the difference between poor whites and poor Blacks, it’s an enormous wealth gap just among those groups alone,” Weber said. “So, hopefully, they will look at what policies we put in place, and that they will have a list of policies that they believe the Legislature might want to take up.”

8. Running defense

Weber is running for California’s 79th Assembly District against John Moore, R-San Diego. The incumbent Weber, 72, will be defending her seat. She has been in the assembly since 2012.

9. Police accountability

When asked in an interview with the San Diego Union Tribune about police reform, Weber said police accountability is a must.

“Simply put, accountability in policing is essential, something that these protestors have been demanding for the last few years. At the very least, we should ensure that officers who are fired for serious misconduct are not rehired in some other jurisdiction only to offend again,” she said.

“Additionally, requiring law enforcement to intervene when an officer is out of control is essential. The duty to intervene would make all officers responsible for what occurs among officers and citizens.”

10. On defunding the police

Money should perhaps be shifted but not necessarily defunded, according to Weber.

“As the ‘defund’ the police cries increase, we should be assessing what responsibilities we have heaped upon police that could be more competently handled by other professionals (mental health, school truancy, etc.),” Weber told the San Diego Union Tribune. “Our expectations in every community are that police will keep us safe and respect our individual dignity and civil rights, but that’s not what’s happening.”