Highlights From California Reparations Task Force Recommendations For Lineage-Based Reparations

Highlights From California Reparations Task Force Recommendations For Lineage-Based Reparations


People listen to the California reparations task force at Northeastern University in Oakland, Calif., on May 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Sophie Austin)

It’s been a packed two-year process for California’s Reparations Task Force, which was established by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020 to study and collect evidence of the harms of slavery and lingering discrimination. As the task force is about to wrap up, its final report is to be delivered to the state Legislature by July 1. Since its first meeting in June 2021 it has made several impactful recommendations.

The latest recommendations came on April 6, when the task force voted at a public meeting in Oakland advised that the state issue a formal apology for slavery and provide billions of dollars in cash payments as a form of repair, The Los Angeles Times reported. The recommendations sparked some heated debate.

Prior to this meeting the task force decided on who would be eligible for any reparations. The force said reparations would be lineage based, meaning applicants would have to prove they has slave ancestry. It restricted eligibility based on lineage as “determined by an individual being an African American descendant of a chattel enslaved person or the descendant of a free black person living in the United States prior to the end of the 19th century.”

The task force also recommended that the Legislature create a new California American Freedman Affairs Agency dedicated to implementing the task force’s recommendations that are adopted into law, including determining eligibility and helping people prove their lineage.

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But in the end, the nine-member panel finalized the recommendations. When presented, the task force’s report will serve as a manual for lawmakers and Newsom.

During the course of the study, the task force has heard testimony from more than 133 witnesses, including economists, historians, among others. The experts offered suggestions for how to quantify compensation for health disparities, mass incarceration, and housing discrimination against descendants.

After the task force concludes it work, it will be up to the lawmakers to make the ultimate decision.

“I’m optimistic that they’ll take a look at our proposals and engage in a good faith effort to implement them,” Kamilah Moore, the chair of the task force, told The Los Angeles Times.

On the possibility of cash reparations, economists recommended calculations for monetary losses in three categories of community harms: health disparities, African American mass incarceration and over-policing, and housing discrimination.

For example, compensation for health disparities would come to $13,619 for each year of residency.

Compensation for mass incarceration and over-policing of African Americans would be $2,352 for each year of residency in California during the war on drugs from 1971 to 2020. And for housing discrimination, it would $3,366 for each year between 1933 and 1977 spent as a resident of the state of California.

There was also a recommendation about general cash reparations.

Black Californians could receive up to $148,099, based on a figure of $3,366 for each year they lived in California from the early 1930s to the late 1970s when federal redlining was most prevalent, The New York Times reported.

According to a draft of the final report, the recommendations are “a range of policies needed to guarantee restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and non-repetition.”

Among them: Repeal or amend Proposition 209, a measure that banned affirmative action in the state in 1996; pay fair market value for jail and prison labor; funding for community wellness centers in African-American communities; the restoration of voting rights to all formerly and currently incarcerated people; a rent cap for historically redlined ZIP Codes; and an increase in grants and financial assistance to improve homeownership rates among African Americans, including subsidized down payments and mortgage payments to those who reside in formerly redlined neighborhoods

The task force will meet one last time in Sacramento on June 29 before sending its recommendations to the Legislature.

People listen to the California reparations task force, a nine-member committee studying restitution proposals for African Americans, at a meeting at Lesser Hall in Mills College at Northeastern University in Oakland, Calif., on May 6, 2023. The panel began voting Saturday on recommendations for how the state may compensate and apologize to Black Californians for generations of harm caused by discriminatory policies. (AP Photo/Sophie Austin)