The California Reparations Task Force announced on Tuesday that a report will be released in the coming days that documents California’s history of harm against African Americans in the past, as well as helping prepare legislators in the coming years for a decision about what reparations, if any, slave descendent African Americans are to receive from the state.
According to Task Force Chair Kamilah Moore, while the report will acknowledge California’s status as a free state pre-Civil War, it will also cover how around 1,5000 enslaved African Americans lived in California until 1852. The 500 page report will also cover how the Ku Klux Klan was prevalent in California for many years, how many black families had been forced out of neighborhoods due to major civic projects, and how many areas of cities were segregated between races well until the 20th Century.
In addition, the report covers how these events are connected to recent statistics showing racial disparity. One figure found that despite just 6% of California identifying as African-American, 28% of all prison inmates are black, with 30% of all homeless people being black and 9% living below the poverty line being black as well.
While no plan of reparations was suggested, with that part due sometime next year, the task force is to recommend compensating those forced out of their homes due to urban renewal projects, as well as set up a state Office of African American or American Freedmen Affairs to help document and file possible claims. Other non-monetary suggestions, such as expansion of voter registration and more avenues to hold police accountable for racial incidents, will also be part of the report.
“I hope that this report is used not only as an educational tool, but an organizing tool for people not only in California but across the U.S. to educate their communities,” said Moore on Tuesday the day before the official report release. “The report also highlights contributions of the African American community and how they made the United States what it is despite ongoing oppression and degradation.”
The first draft report by the Task Force
The Task force, which has had a largely mixed reception since being signed into law in 2020, has largely split many Californians. Even reparations supporters have been split on how to proceed, with a narrow vote in March only accepting African Americans with direct slave lineage to get any possible reparations instead of all African Americans as many other supporters wanted and still insist on. Since then, reaction to the task force has only cooled further.
“The report is moving away from fairness it seems, which is what they had initially started all of this all with,” explained legal adviser Richard Weaver to the Globe on Tuesday. “The report comes out Wednesday, but right now a lot of what they are saying is just not affecting those descendants. The 1,500 who were enslaved in California in the 1850’s after California became a free state. Yeah, perfectly sound argument for reparations there, should not have happened. But they’re getting into the nitty gritty here with incidents and policies that, while unfortunate and should not have happened, happened past that descendants window the task force set up.”
“We have only gotten about half of their big report with this and already any lawyer with half a brain can start tearing this apart. This is only a study, but if it leads to a reparations vote or proposition, you can bet there will be a ton of lawsuits waiting in the wings here. We still need to see the overall plan they have of implementing this, since this is just the background data, but this will not be the all encompassing reparations that many wanted or feared it would be. That much is certain.”
Once fully released to the California Department of Justice next year, the Task Force’s report will be the first government-commissioned report on harms against African Americans released since the 1968 Kerner Commission report.
The draft report is due out on Wednesday.
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