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Reparation, Compensation

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By Willie Brown

“2024 will be a big year for the reparations debate in California.”

This is the title of a recent article on the KPBS.org news blog.  The keyword here is debate.  As expected, legislation of this magnitude could take years and years of back-and-forth discussions before anything concrete can be accomplished.   

It sounds good on paper.  But will it happen?

California Senator Steven Bradford, who represents Inglewood, certainly thinks so.  He is a member of the California Black Legislative Caucus and one of nine members assigned to the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans . 

As we all know the wheels of justice turn painfully slow, especially when Black folks are on the receiving end.  For 2 years, the panel held 15 public hearings, and considered input from more than 100 expert witnesses and the public.

The result was a report that outlined key areas where Black people suffered racial violence, social and economic injustice.  It contains a lot of history that Black Californians may not know. 

For example, during the Gold Rush, beginning in 1848, Black people were enslaved by Southern Miners and brought to California to work. Two years later, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act—a law requiring white people in free states to help catch and re-enslave free Black people.  California passed its own Fugitive Slave Law in 1852 to reinforce the federal act, pledging to protect slave holders.

Task force advisors suggested the state owes Black Californians hundreds of millions of dollars for the harm they’ve suffered because of systemic racism.  Denying rights to property, mass incarceration, gentrification, redlining, disparities in housing, health care, education, criminal justice and resulting economic losses are among the issues most noted.

Black people are in for a long uphill fight.  And with other racial groups also beginning to advocate for reparations as well, there could be quite a bit of opposition.  Still, I’m glad to live in a state that is at least considering reparations. 

Will Black Californians receive actual dollars?

This is something that remains to be seen.  Currently, lawmakers are looking at making amends by compensating families whose property was seized through eminent domain as a result of discrimination; making a formal apology for historical mistreatment; and banning forced prison labor with compensation of less than $1 an hour.

 

 

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