A new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll released this week found that only 39% of voters in California support the idea of a Reparations Task Force, showing a huge lack of support for the group only weeks before their final reparations recommendations are due.
Since the Reparations Task Force of nine members was first put together in late 2020, following Gov. Gavin Newsom signing AB 3121 by then-assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), they have polarized Californians across the state. The ideas behind what reparations should be given have ranged from simple apologies to figures of $1.2 million going to every eligible black person in the state.
While initially encompassing all people of African descent, the group of those qualified to receive reparations was significantly narrowed in March 2022 when the task force voted to limit the possible reparations to those who are an African American descendant of an enslaved person or free Black person living in the US prior to the end of the 19th century.
In June 2022 the Task Force released its first report, giving a recommendation of reparations, in the form of home buying assistance, free college tuition, and business grants. However, one of the many criticisms against the report recommendations was that no estimated monetary figure was attached. In early December, an estimate of $569 billion was provided by the state, leading to disbelief and the threat of lawsuits if the number holds. Later that month, compensation compensation and eligibility requirements were discussed.
However, since the beginning of the year, many parts of the Task Force’s actions have been brought under scrutiny. The question of compensation has in particular been trounced by the media and residents, with so many coming out against the $800 billion compensation plan that Task Force members came out to say to stop focusing on the monetary part of the plan. A more recent figure of $1.2 million given to each black resident has been similarly scrutinized. Just last month, the Task Force approved an apology, financial compensation, and several state program changes, as well as not letting go of that $800 billion figure despite widespread opposition.
More specifically, an estimated payment of $13,619 per each year of state residency for health care disparities, $3,366 per each year lived in the state between 1933 and 1977 for housing discrimination, and $2,352 per each year lived in California between 1971 and 2020 for mass incarceration and over policing was brought forward.
Outside of direct monetary payments, other more social changes were recommended including removing racial bias and discriminatory practices in standardized testing, declaring election day a paid state holiday, updating language in the state’s Constitution, restoring voting rights to all formerly and currently incarcerated people, compensating people deprived of profits for their work, apologizing for acts of political disenfranchisement, implementing rent caps in historically redlined neighborhoods, and investing in and creating free health care programs.
A new poll
While final recommendations are due at the end of the month, these figures, as well as the callous response of Task Force members to “not focus on the $800 billion” despite a hefty state budget deficit and continuing economic worries, have continued to cool many off on the very idea of a Task Force itself. This stance was confirmed this week by the new PPIC poll.
According to the poll:
- 79% of all Californians see racism as a problem today
- 42% see it as a big problem
- 37% as somewhat of a problem
- 32% of Californians also say that racial and ethnic discrimination contributes to economic inequality by “a great deal”
- 23% also note that the legacy of slavery affects the position of Black people in American society today by “a great deal”
However, most Californians also favor formal apology over other forms on compensation. Specifically, 59% of Californians support the California Legislature and governor “offering a formal apology for human rights violations and crimes against humanity for enslaved Africans and their descendants.” This is largely in line with recent statements by Governor Gavin Newsom and other legislators saying that they would not support cash payments, but would go for other recommendations, including an overall apology.
As for the Task Force itself, only 43% of Californians had a positive opinion of the Task Force after reading the statement: “California established a Reparations Task Force to study how the legacy of slavery affects Black people and present recommendations to the governor and legislature for appropriate remedies and compensation.”
Out of likely voters, that percentage falls to only 39% support.
As a result, many reparations backers have been lowering their expectations in recent weeks, even beginning to question if they can pass in California at all now.
Bills tied to research coming from the Task Force, such as a recent bill restricting the use of K-9 units, have failed in the Assembly and Senate in the last few weeks as well. Big issues, such as economic worry and crime, have also bumped the idea of reparations from people’s minds.
Low support for the Task Force
“Things get done in a time of crisis, and that was a time of crisis for a lot of people that crystallized what’s been going on in America in a very visual way,” said Democratic strategist Steve Maviglio in a recent interview. “Sad to say, it’s recent memory, it’s not on everybody’s front burner. What is is crime and punishment again, and that is winning the day.”
Task Force backers such as Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) have also acknowledged that “California is not as liberal as people want us to believe. When it comes to the real issue that impacts us the most, race, we’re hesitant to really buck the curve.”
With the PPIC poll only continuing to confirm the growing distaste for the Reparations Task Force in California, many experts say it could be the end of the line for reparations soon, especially if the Task Force remains tone deaf and puts a large price tag on their recommendations at the end of the month,
“What most Californians can agree on is a basic apology going out, ” explained legal adviser Richard Weaver to the Globe Wednesday. “Statements from lawmakers and this poll have backed that up. But no one seems to want anything monetary to be given either, so a passable reparations bill will be tricky. California was never a slave state, but there has been discrimination in the state in the past, so there may be health care and rental assistance measures to be given to those affected directly that both sides could agree to. Direct cash payments seem unlikely though now.”
“What is certain is that people really do not like the Task Force or what they have done. They went about this in a not very good way and you can tell. Barely 1 in 3 voters view them as positive. You can tell from early on they were riding that wave of support coming after the George Floyd protests, but once people saw what they actually wanted to do, it was a huge dose of reality.”
“This poll does not bode well for support of what the Task Force brings out in the final recommendation.”
The Task Forces final report and recommendation is due at the end of the month.
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