Reparations for Black Californians Could Top $800 Billion

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — It could cost California more than $800 billion to compensate Black residents for generations of over-policing, disproportionate incarceration and housing discrimination, economists have told a state panel considering reparations.

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The preliminary estimate is more than 2.5 times California’s $300 billion annual budget, and does not include a recommended $1 million per older Black resident for health disparities that have shortened their average life span. Nor does the figure count compensating people for property unjustly taken by the government or devaluing Black businesses, two other harms the task force says the state perpetuated.

Black residents may not receive cash payments anytime soon, if ever, because the state may never adopt the calculations. The reparations task force met Wednesday to discuss the numbers and can vote to adopt the suggestions or come up with its own figures. The proposed calculations and figures come from a consulting team of five economists and policy experts.

“We’ve got to go in with an open mind and come up with some creative ways to deal with this,” said Assembly member Reggie Jones-Sawyer. He’s one of two lawmakers on the task force responsible for mustering support from state legislators and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

In an interview prior to the meeting, Jones-Sawyer said he needed to consult budget analysts and others before deciding whether the scale of payments is feasible.

The estimates aren’t new. They came up in a September presentation as the consulting team sought guidance on whether to calculate damages using a national or California-specific model.

But the task force must now settle on a cash amount as it nears a July 1 deadline to recommend to lawmakers how California can atone for its role in perpetuating racist systems that continue to undermine Black people. The final decision rests with the state government.

For those who support reparations, the staggering $800 billion estimate underscores the long-lasting harm Black Americans have endured, even in a state that never officially endorsed slavery.

Several people who gave public comment Wednesday spoke of the urgent need to pay Black Americans for all that was taken from them.

“My family came from the South because they were running for their lives, they were fearful of being lynched, just for voting,” said Charlton Curry of Sacramento, California, who discusses reparations on his Big C Sports podcast.

“Cash payments are necessary. Money talks,” he said, noting that white people benefited from free U.S. government land through the 1862 Homestead Act, and Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II and Jewish Holocaust victims received reparations.

Critics pin their opposition partly on the fact that California was never a slave state and say current taxpayers should not be responsible for damage linked to events that germinated hundreds of years ago.

Bob Woodson, a prominent Black conservative, calls reparations impractical, controversial and counterproductive.

“No amount of money could ever ‘make right’ the evil of slavery, and it is insulting to suggest that it could,” he said in an email to The Associated Press, adding that Black communities relied on faith and family to build thriving communities following slavery. “Some of these communities only began coming apart after we lost sight of these values, which also hold the key to these communities’ restoration.”

Financial redress is just one part of the package being considered. Other proposals include paying incarcerated inmates market value for their labor, establishing free wellness centers and planting more trees in Black communities, banning cash bail, and adopting a K-12 Black studies curriculum.

Reparations talks are stalled at the federal level, but the idea flourished in California as well as U.S. cities and counties following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police. Newsom signed legislation in 2020 creating the reparations task force.

An advisory committee in San Francisco has recommended $5 million payouts, as well as guaranteed income of at least $97,000 and personal debt forgiveness for qualifying individuals. Supervisors expressed general support, but stopped short of endorsing specific proposals. They’ll take up the issue later this year.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday said from Ghana that she and President Joe Biden support a reparations study, but the president has so far sidestepped calls from advocates to create a federal commission.

The statewide estimate includes $246 billion to compensate eligible Black Californians whose neighborhoods were subjected to aggressive policing and prosecution in the “war on drugs” from 1970 to 2020. That would translate to nearly $125,000 for every person who qualifies.

The numbers are approximate, based on modeling and population estimates. The economists also included $569 billion to make up for the discriminatory practice of redlining in housing loans. That would amount to about $223,000 per eligible resident from 1933 to 1977. The $569 billion is considered a maximum and assumes all 2.5 million Californians who identify as Black would be eligible.

But they won’t all be. People must meet residency and other requirements for monetary compensation. They also must be descendants of enslaved and freed Black people in the U.S. as of the 19th century, which leaves out Black immigrants.

Click here to read the full article in AP News


  1. Rottweiler says

    They should pull the money out of George Soro’s ass. After all he is the Hungarian Jew who accompanied his father whose job it was to confiscate the art of the Jews during Hitler’s reign. I think he should give reparations to the Jewish people who were traumatized by the likes of him. Is it any wonder he is not allowed to enter a variety of countries he has ruined? Why does he remain here? There are a plethora of people who are eligible for reparations not just the African Americans. Why not go back to Africa and ask their government for reparations. Afterall, they sold their own people. So many generations removed how long can we assume responsibility when most of us weren’t even here. It is not called migration for a reason.

  2. As a European Caucasian, I want reparations for the reverse discrimination (affirmative action) I and my family have suffered under for 50 years —- discrimination that affected our work and our admittance to universities like UC Davis and even financial assistance. RACISM IS JUST RACISM AND COMES IN MANY FORMS. THIS $800 BILLION PROPOSAL IS JUST MORE OF IT AND NOTHING MORE THAN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY BUYING VOTES TO STAY IN POWER.

  3. Who votes for these politicians and their past policies? Self-inflicted harm via the election?

  4. Brenda Torres says

    Money Can’t Fix Everything….

  5. mark davis says

    California was not a slave state and should not be paying anything in the form of reoperations. Second, this is an unfair burden to every person whose family came to America after slavery and to those whose ancestors never owned slaves.

    One more thing the first slaves in America were Irish. The first actual slave owner was a Black man. Before then all blacks were indentured. Just like my earliest ancestor who was white. It was that Black man who sued for permanent slaves

    • There was over 900 black slave owners in Georgia alone

    • sweetsuzee says

      The slave owner’s name was Anthony Johnson. His slave’s name was John Casor. Whites were NOT allowed to have slaves then, i.e.,1655. However, in that year, the colonial assembly passed legislation permitting free whites, blacks, and Indians the right to own blacks as slaves.


  7. There were Black slave owners all over the south. DEMOCRATS FAILED HISTORY

  8. People who never owned slaves forced to pay money to people who were never slaves…what could go wrong, right????

  9. Dr. Trent Saxton says

    If reoperations are paid…does this mean the end to racism ? We will have paid for the 200 year old fine; right?

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