Column: Reparations Plans Move Ahead. Will the Money and Political Support Be There?

The price tag on recent proposals to compensate Black residents for the sin of slavery and its continuing impacts have heightened debate over reparations

The movement to morally and financially atone for slavery and its related impacts over generations is running into harsh fiscal and political realities.

The concept of reparations has come into sharper focus now that big dollar figures have been attached to it, particularly the proposal by a San Francisco committee that every eligible Black person in the city receive a $5 million payment.

A statewide panel is contemplating payments to a more defined group of Black residents that could total $640 billion, or $360,000 for each eligible person in California.

Such price tags would be controversial anytime, but more so now as California faces a $22.5 billion budget shortfall this year and cities are projecting deficits.

Even before such figures surfaced, polls found that paying reparations did not have broad political support.

But the evil of slavery and subsequent policies that have damaged African Americans both economically and physically have been such that that the question arises: Should politics and costs matter?

Some proponents of reparations have said when judges and juries determine victims must be compensated, the amount is based on an assessment of the harm done, not necessarily the financial wherewithal of who did it.

But the fiscal impact on states and cities and their populations will be an inescapable part of the equation. The Hoover Institution at Stanford University estimated the San Francisco proposal would cost the equivalent of $600,000 for each non-Black family in the city.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors embraced the city reparations panel’s report of more than 100 recommendations, which includes the $5 million payment, though some members expressed concern about the costs. The board did not take action on the specific proposals, which it plans to do later this year after further analysis.

The debate over reparations has been wide ranging.

Critics often say people who weren’t slave owners shouldn’t have to pay people who weren’t enslaved. In California, some opponents question why payments should be made in a state or city that didn’t enslave Black people.

Proponents of reparations point to a history that shows long after slavery was abolished in 1865, unfettered freedom for Blacks was hard to come by. Beyond Jim Crow laws in the South, government policies and practices led to imprisonment of Black people at higher rates, denial of home and business loans and restrictions on where they could live and work. That includes California.

Slavery was key to generating wealth in the United States.

“. . . by 1836 more than $600 million, almost half of the economic activity in the United States, derived directly or indirectly from the cotton produced by the million-odd slaves,” said Ta-Nehisi Coates, an author who has written about reparations, citing historian Edward Baptist before a congressional committee.

“By the time the enslaved were emancipated, they comprised the largest single asset in America: $3 billion in 1860 dollars, more than all the other assets in the country combined.”

San Francisco Supervisor Joel Engardio was among those who voiced concern about whether the city can afford the proposals, but supported some form of reparations. He said some of the city’s neighborhoods used to be hostile to potential homebuyers who were Black, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, including legendary Giants center fielder Willie Mays, who had been rejected when he attempted to buy a home in 1957.

“Generations of Black families were denied the transfer of wealth that White families benefit from as their homes increase in value,” Engardio said at Tuesday’s hearing. “Many people who inherit a west side home today could not afford it on their own, but they get to stay in San Francisco because their grandparents were allowed to buy homes when it was cheap.”

That story can be repeated across the United States.

Legislation seeking reparations for Black Americans has been introduced regularly in Congress since at least 1989, but has gone nowhere. Momentum in mostly liberal states picked up amid the Black Lives Matter movement that grew after a White Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, a Black man, on May 25, 2020.

Later that year, then-Assemblymember Shirley Weber of San Diego, now California’s secretary of state, carried a successful bill to create the nation’s first statewide reparations panel. In 2021, Evanston, Ill., became the first U.S. city to commit to reparations — using tax money from recreational marijuana sales to pay $10 million over a decade with the distribution of $400,000 to eligible Black households.

Former President Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, spoke of the difficulty in enacting reparations nationwide on a podcast with Bruce Springsteen,”Renegades: Born in the U.S.A.,” in 2021.

“So, if you ask me theoretically: ‘Are reparations justified?’ The answer is yes,” he said. “There’s not much question that the wealth of this country, the power of this country, was built in significant part — not exclusively, maybe not even the majority of it — but a large portion of it was built on the backs of slaves.

“What I saw during my presidency was the politics of White resistance and resentment, the talk of welfare queens and the talk of the undeserving poor and the backlash against affirmative action… all that made the prospect of actually proposing any kind of coherent, meaningful reparations program… as, politically, not only a non-starter but potentially counterproductive.”

In 2021, a Pew Research Center survey found that only 3 in 10 U.S. adults said some form of payment should be made to descendants of enslaved people. The concept was opposed by all groups surveyed regardless of age, economic status, education or race — save one: Seventy-seven percent of Black respondents favored such reparations. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents were split, 49 percent opposed and 48 percent in favor.

In a surprise, the NAACP San Francisco chapter on Tuesday opposed the proposed $5 million payment and many of the other panel recommendations. Instead, the organization suggested broad and lasting investments in housing, jobs, education and health care targeted to improve the lives of Black residents.

Click here to read the full article at the SD Diego Union Tribune

California Weighs $360,000 in Reparations to Eligible Black Residents. Will Others Follow?

California is moving closer to determining what eligible Black residents are owed for generations of discriminatory practices, a key step toward potentially becoming the largest US jurisdiction to pay out billions of dollars in reparations.

The California Reparations Task Force will meet over the next two days in Sacramento to assess how reparations should be distributed, which could include direct payments and investments in education, health care and homeownership for Black communities. The group is set to deliver its final recommendations to the state legislature by July 1 and it will be up to lawmakers to decide whether to adopt them.

Tackling the issue is a complex task for the group of civil rights leaders, policymakers, economists and scholars appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020, following the murder of George Floyd. One of the models under consideration suggests the state would owe a total of almost $640 billion to 1.8 million Black Californians with an ancestor enslaved in the US, which works out to roughly $360,000 per person.

California’s task force has yet to say who would pay these sums. After years of budget surpluses, the state’s financial fortunes are turning, with a projected $22.5 billion budget deficit. The technology sector is laying off workers, stock market declines are hurting the incomes of top earners who pay a large share of taxes, and the state already has some of the highest taxes in the nation.

Read More: The Historical Reasons Behind U.S. Racial Wealth Gap

With a federal reparations bill languishing in Congress, how the outcome plays out in the most-populous US state may have implications for other areas that are weighing similar efforts across the country. Evanston, Illinois, in 2021 became the first US city to provide reparations to its Black residents, including giving housing grants, and reparations studies are springing up in places like New York and St. Louis.

“If California can admit its sins and change the narrative, then there is a way forward for states and cities across the nation,” said California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, who wrote the bill creating the task force when she served in the state assembly.

One of the most difficult questions the task force faces is how to define the historical period for measuring harms experienced by Black residents in a state where slavery was never legal. And they’ll need to show how the reparations and policy changes will reduce the persistent racial wealth gap, which has left US White families with roughly six times more wealth than Black families. 

Read More: How Reparations Fit Into New Push for Racial Justice

A prevailing method is to use the racial wealth gap as an indicator of the losses that Black descendants of enslaved people suffered, according to an interim report by a working group for the task force. Using that model, a conservative estimate would be the state owed $636.7 billion. 

Another proposed strategy would be to calculate damages related to various injustices, including housing discrimination, mass incarceration, over-policing, health harms, devaluation of businesses, and property seizures.

The chair of California’s panel, Kamilah Moore, earlier this year tweeted a news story recounting proposals to fund reparations that included adding mansion or estate levies or offering tax credits.

Some California cities, including Los Angeles, have started their own reparations task forces outside of the state effort. In San Francisco, one notable proposal involves a $5 million lump-sum payment to each eligible Black resident. In a recent win for repatriation advocates, Los Angeles County returned the deed to a prime Southern California beach front property that had been forcibly taken from a Black couple a century ago. The descendants of the owners have now decided to sell the property back to the county for almost $20 million.

“These local initiatives are extremely important to start a conversation,” said Thomas Craemer, associate professor of Public Policy at the University of Connecticut, who consults with the California task force on economic methodology. “The past is the past. But we can start a conversation about it by making a down payment and then addressing what other injustices happened.” 

The issue of reparations has divided public opinion. About three-quarters of Black Americans say the descendants of enslaved people should be repaid in some way, while only 18% percent of White Americans feel the same way, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.

Click here to read the full article in Bloomberg

San Francisco Reparations Committee Admits $5 Million Payment Has No Basis

‘The Committee’s credibility sunk to a new low today’

The San Francisco reparations committee announced on Tuesday that the controversial one time payment of $5 million per black resident’ reparations figure proposed in January has not mathematical basis, and is instead based on “what could represent a significant enough investment.”

In the last few years following the George Floyd incident, reparations proposals for African-Americans have popped up across the United States. Statewide, a Reparations Task Force was approved by the Legislature and Governor in the summer of 2020 and has been meeting ever since to create a recommendation on what reparations could be for Californians whose ancestors were slaves in the US before 1865. Last year, the task force limited the reparation proposal to descendants of slaves only instead of all black Californians, called for reparations to be given despite California being a free-state since it’s inception, and estimated that $569 billion is owed to black Californians.

With a looming deadline, the Task Force is struggling on eligibility requirements, compensation calculation, and numerous other issues. May have noted that even if a recommendation is formulated, there will be numerous legislative challenges, legal challenges, and other hurdles that would likely end any future reparations plans.

However, while the Reparations Task Force has been working on a statewide proposal, San Francisco formed their own committee, the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee. Since being founded in 2020, the Committee has worked on what citywide reparations could possibly look like. As of Wednesday, the Committee currently defines those eligible in the city as being 18 or older, being listed as black or African-American on public documents for at least the past decades, and two or more of the following:

  • Having been born or migrating to the city between 1940 and 1996 as well as showing proof of at least 13 years of residency
  • Having been incarcerated due to the war on drugs or being the direct descendant of someone who was
  • Being a descendant of someone who was enslaved before 1865
  • Having been displaced between 1954 and 1973 or being a descendant of someone who did
  • Being part of a marginalized group who experienced lending discrimination in the city between 1937 and 1968 or in formerly redlined communities within the city between 1968 and 2008

While housing funds, job creation, and other benefits have been discussed as reparations within the city, the Committee recommended a controversial one-time $5 million payment per qualified black resident in January. The figure generated widespread criticism in San Francisco and across the country, with the Committee defending the figure by saying that the payment “would compensate the affected population for the decades of harms that they have experienced and will redress the economic and opportunity losses that black San Franciscans have endured, collectively, as the result of both intentional decisions and unintended harms perpetuated by City policy.”

Opponents pressed Committee members on how the figure was formulated and on what metrics they were using. Many compared it to the state plan and how open they were being with their process.

“The Task Force’s initial ‘$569 billion’ figure at least tried to show their work,” said legal adviser Richard Weaver to the Globe on Wednesday. “They based it on the housing wealth gap and how much black residents lost in the past due to different polices. Flawed? Very much so. Passable in the Legislature? Not with California’s budget. Laughable? Yes. But they at least showed how they came up with it.  They showed their work.”

“San Francisco on the other hand has been shady. It’s good that they nailed down who exactly would be eligible in the proposal, but they never said how they arrived at that $5 million figure. It always seemed like too round a figure.”

“There wasn’t a math formula”

The figure was immediately lambasted, with local lawmakers explaining that the city did not have the money for such a reparations plan and would have to severely cut into city services or raise taxes to make it happen. However, the estimated figure remained. After weeks of demands by city residents, Committee Chairman Eric McDonnell finally revealed how the figure was calculated on Tuesday. According to McDonnell, it wasn’t.

“There wasn’t a math formula,” said McDonnell in a Washington Post interview. “It was a journey for the committee towards what could represent a significant enough investment in families to put them on this path to economic well-being, growth and vitality that chattel slavery and all the policies that flowed from it destroyed.”

The remark brought considerable outrage on Tuesday and Wednesday. While committee members attempted to defend it, saying that a price tag couldn’t be put on the horrors of slavery and discrimination, many simply noted that there was no justification behind the figure and failed  to even try to give a basic estimate overview.

“This is just a bunch of like-minded people who got in the room and came up with a number,” said San Francisco Republican Party Chairman John Dennis. “You’ll notice in that report, there was no justification for the number, no analysis provided. This was an opportunity to do some serious work and they blew it.”

Others noted on Wednesday that support for reparations in the city has begun to evaporate even more as a result.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Task Force Meets in San Diego, Debates Eligibility for California Slavery and Racism Reparations

The task force is charged with making recommendations to the legislature by June on reparations for the effects of slavery and systemic racism for Black people in the state

A state task force charged with studying and making recommendations for reparations to Black residents of California who have suffered harm from the effects of slavery and systemic racism met in San Diego Friday and discussed at length who would be eligible.

The meeting, which continues Saturday at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center at the SDSU campus, comes less than six months before the task force is to issue its final conclusions.

The task force of nine members, including San Diego City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe, has been meeting regularly for the past 18 months around the state. The work is complicated and extensive: an interim report issued in June runs to nearly 500 pages. It is also groundbreaking, the first time any state in the country has tackled the issue of historical reparations for Black citizens.

The task force has already made some key decisions. The biggest, in March, was to determine that eligibility for any future payment would be limited to Black state residents who are descendants of enslaved people, or of a free Black person living in the U.S. by the end of the 19th century.

That standard would exclude some individuals, such as Black people who came to the U.S. after the end of the 19th century.

Among other issues the task force is hashing out, economists are attempting to quantify the economic losses stemming from redlining, mass incarceration, environmental harm, and other categories.

The task force is also expected to recommend non-monetary steps the state should take. These could include issuing a formal apology from the state, and deleting language in the state constitution that prohibits slavery, or involuntary servitude, except to punish a crime. That allows prisoners in the state to be paid low wages, advocates say.

The task force was created under Assembly Bill 3121, a bill authored by then-Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego. Now Secretary of State, Weber addressed the task force at the start of the meeting, urging them to finish the work on time. “If you don’t push it forward, it loses momentum,” she said.

Click here to read the full article in the San Diego Union Tribune

$5 Million for Each Longtime Black Resident? S.F. Has a Bold Reparations Plan to Consider

A century after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and lamented how “the Negro still is not free.”

“One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity,” he said during his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech from the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

King could have been describing today’s San Francisco, a 47-square-mile city that’s home to more than 60 billionaires and at least 7,000 homeless people, around 40% of whom are Black, despite Black people representing only 5% of the population.

Right up until he was assassinated in 1968, King argued that economic justice was integral to racial justice. The idea is at the core of a draft proposal the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee presented to city leaders last month.

The Board of Supervisors created the committee, also called AARAC, in December 2020, amid a national racial reckoning. The board’s legislation, while innovative, was also narrow, allowing city leaders to reject or outright ignore the committee’s work.

What happens next will show whether San Francisco politicians are serious about confronting the city’s checkered past, or are simply pretending to be.

While California was never officially a slave state, slaveholders were protected here, and the committee’s research reveals that segregation, systemic oppression and racial prejudice born from the institution of slavery had a profound impact on the city’s evolution.

In the 20th century alone, San Francisco was a Ku Klux Klan stronghold, barred Black people from settling in certain areas, kept them out of city jobs and demolished the Fillmore, a Black neighborhood and commercial district, leaving it vacant for decades.

“Centuries of harm and destruction of Black lives, Black bodies and Black communities should be met with centuries of repair,” AARAC chair Eric McDonnell told me. “If you look at San Francisco, it’s very much a tale of two cities.”

AARAC’s draft proposal includes a number of financial recommendations. There’s one that will especially get folks talking.

AARAC calls for one-time, lump-sum reparations payments of $5 million to each eligible recipient. The amount could cover the “the economic and opportunity losses that Black San Franciscans have endured, collectively, as the result of both intentional decisions and unintended harms perpetuated by City policy,” the draft states.

To qualify for the payments, residents must be 18 at the time the committee’s proposal is enacted, and have identified as Black or African American on public documents for at least 10 years. They may also have to prove they were born in the city between 1940 and 1996, have resided in San Francisco for at least 13 years, and be someone, or the direct descendant of someone, incarcerated during the war on drugs.

To put that in perspective, the state reparations task force, which will issue its own proposal is June, believes that Black Californians may be due $569 billion for housing discrimination alone between 1933 and 1977.

The wealth disparity is not the result of bad fortune. The period of urban renewal that began in the 1950s remains one of the most damning examples of how local government stole wealth from Black communities by razing them, and then ensured they never recovered. As AARAC’s report highlights, most of San Francisco’s formerly redlined neighborhoods — where residents were deemed ineligible for federal housing loans between 1933 and 1954 — are low-income neighborhoods undergoing gentrification now.

While San Francisco isn’t unique in having systematically distributed its riches along racial lines, the city’s status as a liberal bastion makes it a powerful testing ground for undoing these damages, AARAC vice chair Tinisch Hollins told me.

“This reparations process gives us a chance to look at the many ways, not just economically, that harm can and should be repaired,” Hollins said. “And even though San Francisco has passed policies that touch on the legacy of slavery, we have needed something that goes toward quantifying that harm.”

As for next steps, the committee will submit its final proposal to city leaders in June. Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin told me he hopes his colleagues will approve AARAC’s recommendations.

“There are so many efforts that result in incredible reports that just end up gathering dust on a shelf,” Peskin said. “We cannot let this be one of them.”

As King described in his “I Have a Dream” speech, America was founded by white men who wrote a fraudulent “check” that promised that all men would enjoy the “unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

California Reparations Task Force Meets to Talk Eligibility

California’s committee to study reparations for African Americans was meeting in Oakland Wednesday to discuss what could be done to mitigate the generational harm of slavery and discrimination, and who would receive possible payments.

The first-in-the-nation task force previously voted to limit reparations to Black California residents whose ancestors were living in the United States in the 19th century. This week, the group will talk about whether there could be additional eligibility requirements and what time frame reparations could hinge on.

The nine-member group appointed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and leaders of the Legislature were meeting in the City Hall of Oakland, birthplace of the Black Panthers. The San Francisco Bay Area city has a rich Black history but has shed its Black population as rising home prices forced people out.

The group will also discuss how the state may address its impact on Black families whose property was seized through eminent domain. The topic garnered renewed attention after lawmakers last year voted to return a beachfront property known as Bruce’s Beach to descendants of the Black residents who owned it until it was taken in the 20th century.

Kamilah Moore, the task force’s chair, doesn’t expect the group to come to any final decisions at this week’s two-day meeting.

“We’re still in the exploratory phase,” she said.

The task force has a July 1 deadline to complete its final report for the Legislature listing recommendations for how the state can address its legacy of discriminatory policies against Black Californians. The group’s work contrasts from similar efforts that have stalled in Congress.

Carroll Fife, an Oakland city council member, said at the start of Wednesday’s meeting that it’s time for public officials to “do right by Black folks.”

“This is the pressure that is needed to fight the fight that so many people who came before us tried to do,” she said.

Lawmakers in other parts of the country have pushed their states and cities to study reparations without much progress. But Evanston, Illinois, became the first U.S. city last year to make reparations available for Black residents, and public officials in New York will try anew to create a reparations commission in the state.

Officials from Oakland, Sacramento, Los Angeles and other California cities will talk about local reparations efforts during a panel Wednesday.

That will include Khansa T. Jones-Muhammad, vice-chair of Los Angeles’ Reparations Advisory Commission, who said the commission — created last year under then-Mayor Eric Garcetti — doesn’t have a date set in stone to complete its work.

The goal of the commission is to advise the city on a pilot program for distributing reparations to a group of Black residents.

“A lot of our first year has really just been laying the groundwork to have a strong commission,” she said.

In September, economists started listing preliminary estimates for what could be owed by the state as a result of discriminatory policies. But they said they need more data to come up with more complete figures.

Moore said the task force has not decided on any dollar amounts or what form reparations could take, but the public’s interest in those estimates shows optimism about the group’s work. The group hasn’t discussed where money for reparations could potentially come from.

About 30 people gathered Saturday at a Black-owned coffee shop in Sacramento for a reparations information session led by the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, said Chris Lodgson, an organizer for the group.

The coalition is focused on advocating for reparations for Black residents. It has been supportive of reparations largely targeted at the descendants of enslaved African Americans.

“Generally speaking, Black folks can support other Black folks in the things that they want and need even if not everybody is benefitting equally from it or directly from it,” Lodgson said.

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, a former assemblywoman, authored the bill that created the state’s task force, and the group began its work last year. The bill was signed into law in September 2020 after a summer of nationwide protests against racism and police brutality following the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer in Minnesota.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

California Panel Sizes Up Reparations for Black Citizens

In the two years since nationwide social justice protests followed the murder of George Floyd, California has undertaken the nation’s most sweeping effort yet to explore some concrete restitution to Black citizens to address the enduring economic effects of slavery and racism.

A nine-member Reparations Task Force has spent months traveling across California to learn about the generational effects of racist policies and actions. The group, formed by legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020, is scheduled to release a report to lawmakers in Sacramento next year outlining recommendations for state-level reparations.

“We are looking at reparations on a scale that is the largest since Reconstruction,” said Jovan Scott Lewis, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who is a member of the task force.

While the creation of the task force is a bold first step, much remains unclear about whether lawmakers will ultimately throw their political weight behind reparations proposals that will require vast financial resources from the state.

“That is why we must put forward a robust plan, with plenty of options,” Dr. Lewis said.

The effort parallels others on a local level, in California and elsewhere, to address the nation’s stark racial disparities and a persistent wealth gap. The median wealth of Black households in the United States is $24,100, compared with $188,200 for white households, according to the most recent Federal Reserve Board Survey of Consumer Finances.

In a preliminary report this year, the task force outlined how enslaved Black people were forced to California during the Gold Rush era and how, in the 1950s and 1960s, racially restrictive covenants and redlining segregated Black Californians in many of the state’s largest cities.

Californians eligible for reparations, the task force decided in March, would be descendants of enslaved African Americans or of a “free Black person living in the United States prior to the end of the 19th century.” Nearly 6.5 percent of California residents, roughly 2.5 million, identify as Black or African American. The panel is now considering how reparations should be distributed — some favor tuition and housing grants while others want direct cash payments.

The task force has identified five areas — housing discrimination, mass incarceration, unjust property seizures, devaluation of Black businesses and health care — in discussions for compensation. For example, from 1933 to 1977, when it comes to housing discrimination, the task force estimates compensation of around $569 billion, with $223,200 per person.

Final figures will be released in the report next year; it would then be up to the Legislature to act upon the recommendations and determine how to fund them.

The state and local efforts have faced opposition over the potentially steep cost to taxpayers and, in one case, derided as an ill-conceived campaign to impose an “era of social justice.”

A two-day public meeting of the state task force this fall, in a makeshift hearing room tucked inside a Los Angeles museum, included a mix of comments from local residents on how they had been personally affected and how the disparities should be addressed, along with testimony from experts who have studied reparations.

While even broad-scale reparations would be unlikely to eliminate the racial wealth gap, they could narrow it significantly, and proponents hope California’s effort will influence other states and federal legislators to follow suit.

“Calling these local projects reparations is to some degree creating a detour from the central task of compelling the federal government to do its job,” said William A. Darity Jr., a professor at Duke University and a leading scholar on reparations. Even so, Dr. Darity, who is advising the California task force, said “there is an increasing recognition” that the lasting effects of slavery must be addressed.

Every year for almost three decades, Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan introduced legislation that would have created a commission to explore reparations, but the measure consistently stalled in Congress. After Mr. Conyers retired in 2017, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas began championing the measure, which passed a House committee for the first time last year, but stalled on the floor.

Underscoring the political hurdles, opinions on reparations are sharply divided by race. Last year, an online survey by the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that 86 percent of African Americans supported compensating the descendants of slaves, compared with 28 percent of white people. Other polls have also shown wide splits.

Still, several efforts have gotten off the ground recently.

In 2021, officials in Evanston, Ill., a Chicago suburb, approved $10 million in reparations in the form of housing grants. Three months later, officials in Asheville, N.C., committed $2.1 million to reparations. And over the summer, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to transfer ownership of Bruce’s Beach — a parcel in Manhattan Beach that was seized with scant compensation from a Black couple in 1924 — to the couple’s great-grandsons and great-great-grandsons.

“We want to see the land and economic wealth stolen from Black families all across this country returned,” said Kavon Ward, an activist who advocated on behalf of the Bruces’ descendants and has since started a group, Where Is My Land, that seeks to help Black Americans secure restitution.“We are in a moment that we cannot let pass.”

A so-called blight law from 1945, the task force’s interim report explains, paved the way for officials to use eminent domain to destroy Black communities, including shuttering more than 800 businesses and displacing 4,700 households in San Francisco’s Western Addition beginning in the 1950s.

After work on Interstate 210 began later that decade, the report goes on, the freeway was eventually built in the path of a Black business district in Pasadena, where city officials offered residents $75,000 — less than the minimum cost to buy a new home in the city — for their old homes.

And there is Russell City, an unincorporated parcel of Alameda County near the San Francisco Bay shoreline where many Black families fleeing racial terror in the Deep South built lives during the Great Migration. Testimony to the task force by Russell City residents recounts the community’s rise and ultimate bulldozing.

Click here to read the full article at the NY Times

Reparations Task Force To Release First Report on Harms Made Against Black Californians

500 page report will documents wrongs made against African Americans from the pre-Civil War era to the present day

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.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe