Californian Group Votes to Limit Reparations to Slave Descendants


California’s task force on reparations, the first in the country, voted this week to limit state compensation to the descendants of free and enslaved Black people who were in the US in the 19th century. The decision narrowly rejected a proposal that all Black people, regardless of lineage, were to be included in reparations.

The vote was split 5-4 after an hours-long debate finally concluded. The debate was emotional, and at some times testy. 

In 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation that created a two-year reparations task force, and in doing so, made California the only state to move ahead with the mission to study the institution of slavery and its aftermaths and harm, as well as a plan to educate the public about its findings. 

Federal reparations have not yet made any movement. But at more local levels, movement is being made. Cities and universities have taken up the issue. For example, the mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, announced a city commission last month. In Boston, the city is also considering a proposal to form a reparations commission of its own. 

Last year, a suburb of Chicago, Evanston, became the first city in the United States to make reparations available to its Black residents. But there are some that say the program has not done anything to right the wrong. 

In California, the task members knew that the lineage approach question would prove to be a pivotal moment. Nearly all members of the task force can trace their families back to enslaved ancestors. 

Those that favored the lineage approach said that it had the best chance of surviving any potential legal challenges, and also opened it up to any free Black people who came to the U.S. before the turn of the 20th century, as it would include the difficulties in documenting family history and also the risk that they could have become enslaved after arriving free. 

Those arguing that all Black people should be included said that it is all Black people who suffer from systemic racism in modern days, including racism in employment, education, and housing. 

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.