Reparations proposals for Black Californians advance to state Assembly

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The California Senate advanced a set of ambitious reparations proposals Tuesday, including legislation that would create an agency to help Black families research their family lineage and confirm their eligibility for any future restitution passed by the state.

Lawmakers also passed bills to create a fund for reparations programs and compensate Black families for property that the government unjustly seized from them using eminent domain. The proposals now head to the state Assembly.

State Sen. Steven Bradford, a Los Angeles-area Democrat, said California “bears great responsibility” to atone for injustices against Black Californians.

“If you can inherit generational wealth, you can inherit generational debt,” Bradford said. “Reparations is a debt that’s owed to descendants of slavery.”

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The proposals, which passed largely along party lines, are part of a slate of bills inspired by recommendations from a first-in-the-nation task force that spent two years studying how the state could atone for its legacy of racism and discrimination against African Americans. Lawmakers did not introduce a proposal this year to provide widespread payments to descendants of enslaved Black people, which has frustrated many reparations advocates.

In the U.S. Congress, a bill to study reparations for African Americans that was first introduced in the 1980s has stalled. Illinois and New York state passed laws recently to study reparations, but no other state has gotten further along than California in its consideration of reparations proposals for Black Americans.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Bill to Create New Reparations Agency Passes Senate Judiciary Committee

Reparations bills poised to face a difficult year in the Legislature

A bill to create a new state agency, the California American Freedman Affairs Agency, to assist Californians with any approved reparations programs, passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in an 8-1 vote, with 2 abstentions.

Senate Bill 1403, authored by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), would specifically establish the California American Freedmen Affairs Agency in state government, under the control of the secretary, who would be appointed by the Governor. SB 1403 would require the agency to implement the recommendations of the Task Force, as well as require the agency to determine how an individual’s status as a descendant would be confirmed. The bill would also require proof of an individual’s descendant status to be a qualifying criteria for benefits authorized by the state for descendants. To accomplish these goals, the bill would require the agency to be comprised of a Genealogy Office and an Office of Legal Affairs.

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SB 1403 would further require the agency to oversee and monitor existing state agencies and departments tasked with engaging in direct implementation of the policies that fall within the scope of the existing state agencies and departments’ authority, including policies related to reparations.

SB 1403 is one of 14 reparations-related bills introduced this session. They are the first bills to come after the California Reparations Task Force unveiled their final list of recommendations. Originally, the Task Force had tried to recommend a plan that would have cost the state up to $800 billion. This received widespread backlash, with so many Californians from across the political spectrum being opposed to the plan that Task Force members came out and said “STOP focusing on the monetary part of the plan.” Another figure of $1.2 million given to each black resident was also scrutinized.

SB 1403 moves up

Finally, because of the severe lack of support for giving any kind of monetary compensation coming from both California residents and lawmakers alike, all cash reparations proposals were dropped. Instead, lawmakers focused on general improvement bills, many of which would come at no or little cost to the taxpayer. SB 1403, while costing some state money because of it starting a new agency, was introduced to help facilitate all, if any, reparations bills passed by the legislature and signed into law. If passed, it would only create the agency, and not implement any of the bills stemming from the Task Force’s recommendations.

“This is a commonsense measure, something that’s long overdue for California and the nation,” said Senator Bradford on Tuesday.

The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday as a result. However, the vote was 8 t0 1 with 2 abstentions, showing that even a relatively innocuous bill like SB 1403 still had opposition, possibly foreshadowing even greater opposition to more robust reparations bills this year and in future years.

“The eye is on the money,” explained Legal adviser Richard Weaver to the Globe on Tuesday. “The state is $73 billion in the red right now, on top of many lawmakers and especially residents not believing that reparations should be a thing. Anything reparations related will have the question “How much is this going to cost?”. Cash payments are already out. They are extremely unpopular, plus Newsom said he wouldn’t support them. But the cost of these programs, well, that’s more of a grey area. They aren’t direct cash payments, but they’ll cost a lot and only benefit a fraction of the population.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

San Francisco Puts Reparations Office on Hold as Part of $75 Million Budget Cut

San Francisco’s Office of Reparations was cut out of Mayor London Breed’s latest budget proposal as the city struggles to enact $75 million in cuts.

“I understand the importance of no cuts to existing programs, but the Black community will continue to pursue justice and equity through reparations here in San Francisco,” program supervisor Shamann Walton told the San Francisco Examiner. “My hope is that the city’s deficit is eliminated quickly so that we can fund the Office of Reparations and fulfill the commitment made to address the historical injustices and inequities that have persisted for generations for Black San Franciscans.”

Walton originally asked the city for $50 million in funding for the upcoming fiscal year, which was progressively cut over the following months. He temporarily secured $2 million before Breed pulled the plug on funding for the upcoming three years of operations.

Despite the news, advocates have insisted reparation plans will continue in the background including importing a satellite campus of a historically black college to the Bay Area. “A lot of the work, it’ll be tight, but we’ll leverage some of the funding we had in our budget,” San Francisco human rights commission director Sheryl Davis told the Examiner.

In December 2022, the advisory committee recommended the city pay longtime black residents of the city $5 million, but Walton opined shortly after that the figure should be much larger. “You can Google a lot of the reparations work that has been done and look at the monetary formulas that people have put together, and most certainly, the $5 million is a very minuscule number compared to a lot of research that has been done over the past couple of decades, quite frankly,” Walton, who also represents the city’s tenth district, said at the time.

Pressed if there is a figure that is more fair or appropriate, Walton responded, “Definitely not.” “I don’t think you can put a figure to taking someone from their country, raping and pillaging their communities, not allowing them the chance to reproduce, not allowing them the chance to raise a family and grow wealth, making them work for free,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a number you can put on what that does to a specific ethnic group or a specific race over the generations to come.”

Click here to read the full article at National Review

Push for reparations in California takes significant step forward

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — After a two-year comprehensive study by the California Reparations Task Force, the push for reparations for some Black Californians has taken a monumental step forward. While the final report of California’s first-in-the-nation Reparations Task Force – exceeding 1,000 pages – only contained recommendations, Senator Steven Bradford of Southern California is pushing for tangible change.

State Senator Steven Bradford, one of the nine task force members, announced on Tuesday the introduction of an amendment to SB 490 aiming to establish a “Freedmen Affairs Agency.” The agency is a crucial element of the Reparations Task Force’s suggestions. If approved, the agency would manage a range of services, including a genealogy office to support potential reparations claimants in proving eligibility, a Freedmen Savings and Trust Bank, business grants, employment training, and housing assistance, and much more. However, certain aspects of the agency could require further legislative endorsement, especially the processing of claims for direct compensation.

The senator, due to term out in two years, expressed his determination to see reparations become a reality in a statement. “Reparations are not a gift – they are what was promised, owed, and overdue,” said Senator Bradford. He emphasized the nation’s long history of wage theft through slavery and appealed to his colleagues for support.

The amendment to SB 490 won’t be heard until California’s next legislative cycle in 2024.

Senator Bradford joined ABC7 News anchor race and culture reporter Julian Glover on our 5:30 p.,. streaming newscast to discuss. Watch the full segment in the video player above.

Click here to read the full article at ABC 7

California’s Historic Work on Possible Black Reparations Moves to the Legislature

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Members of California’s Black reparations task force handed off their historic two-year report to state lawmakers Thursday, beginning the next chapter in the long struggle to compensate the descendants of slavery.

The first U.S. panel of its kind met one last time Thursday, urging supporters to press lawmakers into action on more than 100 recommendations. State legislators and Gov. Gavin Newsom must agree for any money to be paid or for any policy changes to be adopted.

“This book of truth will be a legacy, will be a testament to the full story,” said Lisa Holder, a civil rights attorney and task force member. “Anyone who says that we are colorblind, that we have solved the problem of anti-Black animus and racism, I challenge you to read this document.”

The mood was buoyant, but tinged with frustration and anger that hours earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in higher education, programs that have disproportionately helped Black students. Task force members said their suggestions will pass legal muster because the proposed benefits would only go to descendants of enslaved people, not to all Black residents.

The panel narrowly voted to limit any financial redress to residents who can document lineage from Black people who were in the U.S. in the 19th century.

The 1,100-page report details California’s role in perpetuating discrimination against Black residents. Ideas for repairing the harm range from formally apologizing to paying descendants of enslaved people for having suffered under racist actions such as over-policing and housing discrimination. The panel also recommended creating a new agency to oversee reparations efforts.

Turning the proposals into policies won’t be easy. State Sen. Steven Bradford said there are “a lot of folks” in the Legislature who do not support reparations and a 2021 Pew Research Center survey found that only 30% of U.S. adults favored the concept.

A more recent survey by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California found 54% of respondents had a negative opinion of California creating a reparations task force, although 59% said they would support a formal apology from the state to descendants.

More than 200 people gathered at the Thursday meeting in Sacramento, with an overflow crowd outside the room. Inside, many stood at one point and began a call-and-response to demand action.

“What do we want?” someone shouted.

“Reparations,” the crowd responded.

“When do we want them?” he asked.

“Now!”

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, who wrote legislation creating the task force, said slavery stripped her of her identity and heritage and that she has visited Africa dozens of times, only to conclude there is nowhere for her to go back to.

“I am an American,” she said. “This country has shaped and formed us and we have given to it. And we have a right to be here. We have a right to have the benefits.”

Rev. Amos C. Brown, a longtime civil rights activist and vice-chair of the task force, said California’s projected $31.5 billion budget deficit should not stop the state from making reparations.

“This state has committed a crime against Black folks, and it’s time for them to pay,” Brown said to cheers from the audience. “Deficits don’t last always.”

The nine-member reparations panel convened in June 2021, the year after Newsom signed legislation creating the group. He and legislative leaders picked the members, including lawyers, educators, elected officials and civil rights leaders descended from enslaved people.

Federal reparations efforts have stalled for decades, but cities, counties, school districts and universities have taken up the cause. An advisory group in San Francisco recommended that qualifying Black adults receive a $5 million lump-sum, guaranteed annual income of at least $97,000 and personal debt forgiveness. San Francisco supervisors are supposed to take up the proposals later this year.

New York may soon follow California by creating a commission to examine the state’s involvement in slavery and consider addressing present-day economic and educational disparities experienced by Black people. Lawmakers approved the legislation earlier this month, but Gov. Kathy Hochul has yet to sign it.

Illinois approved a reparations commission last year.

California entered the union as a free state in 1850. In practice, it sanctioned slavery and approved policies and practices that thwarted Black people from owning homes and starting businesses. Black families were terrorized, their communities aggressively policed and their neighborhoods polluted, according to a groundbreaking report released last year as part of the committee’s work.

The panel did not recommend a fixed dollar amount for financial redress, but endorsed economic methodologies to calculate what is owed for decades of over-policing, disproportionate incarceration and housing discrimination. Initial calculations pegged California’s potential cost in those areas at more than $800 billion — more than 2.5 times the state’s annual budget. The estimated cost was cut to $500 billion in a later report, though no explanation was given for the change.

The panel has recommended prioritizing elders for financial compensation.

Economists recommended nearly $1 million for a 71-year-old Black person who lived all their life in California — or $13,600 per year — for health disparities that shorten the average life span.

Black people subjected to aggressive policing and prosecution in the “war on drugs” from 1971 to 2020 could each receive $115,000 if they lived in California throughout that period, or more than $2,300 for each year.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

When Will the Legislature Vote on California Reparations?

Next Thursday, California’s first-in-the-nation task force on reparations plans to hand over to the state Legislature its extensive report and recommendations for how to compensate eligible Black Californians for the enduring harms of slavery. 

As historic a moment it may be, it won’t mean advocates of reparations have crossed the finish line. 

Lawmakers will then have to decide which of the task force’s recommendations they want to turn into bills for consideration. Those bills will then have to be voted on by the Assembly and Senate, and if approved, sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom to be signed into law or vetoed. And all that may not happen until next year. 

“For the most part, chances are there will not be legislation produced this legislative year,” state Sen. Steven Bradford — a Democrat from Gardena, task force member and vice chairperson of the Legislative Black Caucus — told CalMatters on Wednesday. 

“The recommendations will probably come in the form of a bill that will be introduced probably at its earliest in December of this year and it will move through the process in the next legislative cycle,” he said. 

After more than two years, hundreds of hours of public meetings and thousands of pages of public documents, the centerpiece of the task force’s recommendations is economic modeling for how the state can calculate how much each eligible Black Californian may be owed

Economists estimate eligible Black residents may be owed a total of more than $800 billion for decades of over-policing, disproportionate incarceration and housing discrimination. The $800 billion is more than two-and-a-half times the total spending in California’s $300 billion-plus annual budget

That price tag has been met with a cold response from other lawmakers and Newsom, who signed the law creating the task force. Very few lawmakers have spoken in favor of the task force’s recommendations and Newsom’s office continues to say the governor is waiting for the final report to be released.  

Bradford has floated the idea of diverting 0.5% of the state’s annual budget to generate a $1.5 billion annuity to fund reparations programs and payments over time.

“To their defense, in a sense, many are saying ‘We’re waiting for the final report,’ which will be out next week. And then we’ll see where our real allies are at, after that,” Bradford said. 

According to the Department of Justice, the final report is expected to look nearly identical to the draft of the final report that the task force approved at its last meeting in May, which is already available online

The task force’s final meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday in the first floor auditorium in the March Fong Eu Secretary of State building in the 1500 block of 11th Street. 

Reparations calculator: CalMatters has created an interactive tool to estimate how much someone might be owed in reparations for slavery and racism. Look it up herewatch a TikTok about it, see it on Instagram and read the full story from Wendy Fry of CalMatters’ California Divide team.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

California Puts a Price on Slavery’s Legacy and Draws a Blueprint for Reparations

By one reckoning, the state’s payments could reach $1.2 million per person. But who is compensated, and by whom, is far from resolved.

The numbers are striking in their precision. The statistical value of each year of human life, accounting for racial differences in life expectancy: $13,619. Wealth missing due to lower rates of Black home ownership: $148,099. Average devaluation of Black-owned businesses: $77,000. Each year of disproportionate incarceration factored by race, combining lost wages and freedom: $159,792.

These calculations by California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, buried in the nearly 500-page draft of a report that will go to the state legislature in late June, belie the complexity and raw emotion underlying the first state-level effort to provide compensation for the legacy of slavery and discrimination in the US. By even considering reparations for harms that have compounded for centuries, California is transforming what has been a largely theoretical concept into a detailed model that may be adopted elsewhere as others also attempt to reckon with the costs of historical injustices. And at a potential cost of up to $800 billion, this would be to date the largest — and one of the most complex — reparations efforts in history.

Commissioned in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in 2020, California’s reparations panel has spent two years analyzing the racial gaps in health, wealth, housing, education and employment that affect many of the state’s Black residents — about 2.25 million, or 5.7% of a diverse population of nearly 40 million with no racial majority. Their recommendations will be delivered to the legislature on June 29, and supportive lawmakers plan to propose bills enacting at least some of the measures by the end of the legislative session in 2024.

Some proposals are symbolic, such as an official apology from the state of California for the historic atrocities and harms suffered by Black people. Others are familiar: greater investments in schools, health care, housing, job training and businesses in Black communities; improving access to higher education; advancing voting rights; and reforms in policing and public safety that gained renewed support after Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officers.

But none of the recommendations by the task force are more charged than offering direct compensation to eligible Black residents who are descended from a person enslaved in the US. Depending on the harms claimed and how many years a potential recipient has lived in California, the loss calculations go as high as $1.2 million per person.

In attempting to put a price on historical wrongs, California is forcing answers to questions that can’t be derived with neat equations: Who will be compensated and for what? Who pays the bill? And how will it be settled?

California’s ‘Sin Bill’

As the most populous US state, California is setting a potential roadmap for reparations at the federal level, where legislation has been introduced in Congress in every session since 1989. The most recent bill, introduced in May by Missouri Democratic Representative Cori Bush, calls for reparations to Black Americans totaling $14 trillion. That is how much proponents say is needed to close the racial wealth gap, which leaves White families with roughly six times more wealth than Black ones — an indicator of the losses that descendants of people enslaved in the US have suffered.

The reparations task force applied that concept in its work, identifying discriminatory policies and practices dating back to California’s statehood in 1850 and attempting to trace their impacts to the present day.

The nine-member panel is made up of civil rights advocates, academics and lawmakers. They consulted economists, statisticians, assessors, archivists and historians. They studied monetary and non-monetary precedents, including Germany’s reparations to Israel after the Holocaust, South Africa’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission, Chile’s compensation to victims of the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, Canada’s payments to survivors of residential schools where Indigenous children were tortured and died, and the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund.

The panel also looked at reparations by the US government for other historical wrongs: the formal apology and $20,000 payments authorized by Congress in 1988 to Japanese Americans who were forced into internment camps during World War II; and a $9 million settlement and lifetime health care for survivors of the US Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee on Black men that lasted until 1972.

Read more: How Reparations for Black Americans Have Gained Steam

And task force members traveled around California holding public hearings that became raucous and tearful, listening to testimony on Black-owned homes, businesses and farms seized by eminent domain or devalued through redlining and discriminatory lending practices. They heard stories of lives shattered by violence and incarceration, of Black neighborhoods where poverty, substandard schools and poor health have limited human potential for generations.

Though still not easy, some calculations are more straightforward…

At 82, Reverend Amos C. Brown, vice chair of the reparations task force, is old enough to have had a great-great-grandfather who was enslaved. Born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1941, he remembers vividly seeing photos of Emmett Till’s battered body after being murdered by white vigilantes in 1955. “He was the same age I was,” said Brown. “That shook me.”

Brown, who is also the pastor of San Francisco’s oldest Black congregation, sees reparations as California finally coming to terms with its “sin bill” for accumulated effects of slavery. Even though California outlawed slavery when it became a state in 1850, Black residents encountered discriminatory treatment since its founding, through the Gold Rush to the present day, in housing, health, employment, education and economic opportunity.

“You cannot put a dollar sign on racism, but our sin bill is so high it’s astronomical,” said Brown. “We are people of conscience and reason and goodwill. We’re not saying ‘pay it all at once,’ but you ought to do what you’ve done for others.”

A Down Payment on Injustice

It will be up to the state legislature to enact some or all of the recommendations from the task force — and to figure how to fund them. One concept under consideration is for the legislature to authorize a to-be-determined “down payment,” with the balance to be paid over time, through a combination of investments in Black communities and individual restitution for residents who can document harms based on government action.

State Senator Steven Bradford, one of two lawmakers on the task force, has proposed diverting 0.5% of the state’s $300 billion annual budget in order to generate a $1.5 billion annuity to fund reparations programs and payments over time. “If we are committed to it we can afford it,” he said.

But even in heavily Democratic California, public support for reparations is still lacking. While 71% of Californians say that racial and ethnic discrimination contributes to economic inequality in the US either a great deal or a fair amount, and 59% would approve of an official apology from the state for its role in perpetuating discrimination, only 43% of adults surveyed say they favor the state having a reparations task force, according to a new survey from the Public Policy Institute of California. Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who championed the creation of the task force, seemed to acknowledge the political limitations in a recent statement: “Dealing with that legacy is about much more than cash payments.”

Estimates for the total cost of reparations, according to task force calculations, run as high as $800 billion — nearly three times the state budget. As California slides from an era of hefty surpluses into what is projected to be a $32 billion deficit in the coming fiscal year, Newsom has called on lawmakers to be “prudent” and brace for recession.

“There is no way we can afford $800 billion,” said James Gallagher, the Republican leader in the Assembly. “Who is going to pay that? Taxpayers? New immigrants? It would be grossly unfair in addition to being unfeasible.”

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber and other advocates say the state’s fiscal woes are not an excuse for inaction. As a legislator in 2020, she wrote the bill creating the reparations task force.

“When people say ‘we can’t spend that much money,’ I would say ‘What if what happened to African Americans happened to you? How much would it cost to make you whole?’” said Weber. “I doubt if anybody would say ‘Nothing, I’m happy being at the bottom of the rung and that everything’s OK.’”

Weber says she reminds people who question why they should bear liability for racial disparities that started generations ago that they “may not have planted the tree, but you surely enjoy the shade.”

That idea resonates far beyond California. In the UK, a group of aristocrats who inherited family wealth from the British slave trade have created an organization, Heirs of Slavery, to make voluntary reparations for the profits reaped by their ancestors and invited King Charles III to join.

Support for Reparations Differs by Race and Political Affiliation in US

In the US, building public support for reparations calls for a different conversation, one focused on return on investment rather than who pays what to whom, says Assembly member Reginald Jones-Sawyer Sr., the other elected official serving on the task force.

“Homeownership for African Americans may actually be a way to bring in more taxes, making schools equal in the inner cities for African American kids who are performing at a lower level, ending mass incarceration and plowing that money into recidivism programs and closing prisons,” he said in an interview. “What if we did an analysis on what that is to make more people able to live the American Dream, that it’s a cost benefit for all of us? Billions and billions of dollars is really billions of savings.”

A New Legacy

When it comes to reparations, there are still more questions than answers.

How can any government apportion liability on its citizens and taxpayers for harms that originated lifetimes ago, even if their impacts continue today? Should immigrants, of which there are many in California, assume the collective debt of reparations, even if they too are relatively poor and disadvantaged? Should eligibility be limited to descendants of people who were enslaved, or would the family members of a Black World War II veteran excluded from GI bill benefits also qualify, even if they arrived in the US long after slavery ended? What additional justice is owed descendants of indigenous and Chinese laborers, who suffered terrible deprivations in building California’s economy?

By focusing on the legacy of slavery and direct payments for its continuing impacts, the reparations movement is missing more effective approaches to closing the racial wealth gap, according to Richard Rothstein, author of “The Color of Law,” which chronicles US segregation in the 20th century.

In a new book, “Just Action,” co-authored with his daughter Leah, Rothstein advocates for remedies including subsidies for African Americans to buy homes in neighborhoods from which they were excluded and credit score reform to include rent paid on time, benefiting African Americans, who are more likely to rent than White Americans.

“African Americans as a race were excluded from many neighborhoods in this country by public policy and the consequences for their descendants are enormous,” Rothstein said. “If there was unconstitutional public policy, then race-conscious remedies would be justifiable.”

Some opponents of reparations in California concede investments are needed to improve education, housing and economic opportunity in Black communities, although they differ on the methods. “On some of the recommendations to increase home ownership I could see bipartisan support,” said Republican leader Gallagher. “We should do it in ways that benefit all Californians.”

Even if the state legislature does not enact cash payments anytime soon — or ever — the US reparations movement will likely be changed by California’s progress in driving a difficult public conversation and delivering a blueprint for restorative justice.

Jones-Sawyer, known as Reggie, knows well the power of example. On his phone, he pulls up a black-and-white photo of his uncle, Jefferson Thomas, one of the Little Rock Nine who integrated the Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. The teenager stands in profile, eyes straight ahead, jaw clenched, near a bus stop, surrounded by jeering White students. Someone has urinated on him; others have thrown garbage.

Click here to read the full article in Bloomberg

The California Reparations Commission Fails State History

Its report erases the agency and success of black Californians and ignores how others worked with them to secure basic rights for all.

California’s reparations commission has determined that slavery, as opposed to disastrous policies advanced by the political establishment for decades, is the real reason for present-day black poverty in the state. In just a few weeks, the legislature that created the task force will take up the commission’s proposal, which calls for payments to black residents of upwards of $1.2 million.

As I wrote in the Wall Street Journal in December, reading the 500 pages from the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans is like listening to Béla Bartók’s bloody Bluebeard’s Castle played on 100 kazoos.

Still, all anyone wants to talk about is the money, and for good reason — the commission proposes to create a nearly trillion-dollar fund from which qualifying African Americans may hope to receive million-dollar payments. The total cost is conservatively estimated at three times California’s annual budget.

Those sorts of eye-catching numbers have task-force supporters increasingly worried — perhaps especially Governor Gavin Newsom, whose signature created the commission that could imperil his White House ambitions. Now they’re trying to downplay the monetary awards, even acting a bit peeved that anyone would focus on something so mundane — so filthy — as mere money.

“Dealing with that legacy is about much more than cash payments,” Newsom said in a statement to Fox News. “The Reparations Task Force’s independent findings and recommendations are a milestone in our bipartisan effort to advance justice and promote healing. This has been an important process, and we should continue to work as a nation to reconcile our original sin of slavery and understand how that history has shaped our country.”

Task-force members are equally coy.

“We want to make sure that this is presented out in a way that does not reinforce the preoccupation with a dollar figure, which is the least important piece of this,” said Cheryl Grills, a task-force member and clinical psychologist in Los Angeles. “It’s really unfortunate. I’m actually sad to see that our news media is not able to nuance better. It’s almost like, ‘What’s going to be sensational’ as opposed to what’s important.”

What’s important, Grills and others say, is providing the public with an accurate record of slavery in California — slavery and its innumerable effects — and then getting California to issue a formal apology for what the task force calls the state’s “perpetration of gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity on African slaves and their descendants.”

“Our history has been so buried, so erased, so denied. I think that is an essential element of our mission,” said Donald Tamaki, a task-force member and lawyer from San Francisco.

On that matter, says task-force member and state assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, the commission’s mission has been accomplished. His evidence: He said he has met “a few who have read the report, and it was eye-opening for them. For people who read the interim report, to hear them say ‘I didn’t know’ was probably the most gratifying thing I could hear.”

*   *   *

But on the more modest goal of documenting the history of black Californians, the commission has utterly failed. It actually erases the agency — the success — of black Californians throughout statehood. And the report ignores the ways in which Californians of all races and ethnicities have more often worked together to secure for all Californians unalienable human rights, among these the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As I wrote in the Journal:

Begin with this: Slavery in what’s now California was banned under Mexican authority in 1837. California joined the union in 1850 as a free state. The panel briefly acknowledges this only to dismiss it, lingering instead on the 1852 passage of the California Fugitive Slave Act, under which 13 people were deported from the state. The commission briefly mentions that the reviled law lapsed three years after being passed but doesn’t mention the numerous cases of white California officials—sheriffs, judges, attorneys and others—who discovered and liberated enslaved people.

The best known of these may be the story of Biddy Mason, an account I described in that piece.

Mason was one of several slaves brought to California by a Texas farmer in 1851. When Los Angeles County Sheriff David W. Alexander learned of their presence in San Bernardino, he gathered a mixed-race posse and rode 60 miles — up and over the windswept, nearly 4,000-foot Cajon Pass — to free Mason and the others. He brought them to a downtown Los Angeles courtroom where Judge Benjamin Hayes formally emancipated them. Remarkably, Mason went on to become one of Los Angeles’s wealthiest landowners, a merchant, midwife, and philanthropist.

Similarly, the commission touches on the case of Archy Lee, a 19-year-old black man brought to Sacramento in 1857 by his Mississippi master. Here’s how the commission reports Lee’s dramatic release from bondage:

But in one example, the case of Archy Lee from 1857 to 1858, the proslavery California Supreme Court made every effort to return him to enslavement. Lee’s enslaver, Charles Stovall, forced him to go with him to California years after the state fugitive slave law had expired. But California’s supreme court justices decided that since Stovall was a young man who suffered from constant illness, and he did not know about California’s laws, he should not be punished by losing his right to own Archy Lee. It took several more lawsuits by free Black Californians, and a new decision from a federal legal official, before Lee finally won permanent freedom. . . . After free Black activists successfully rescued Archy Lee from enslavement in 1858, angry proslavery legislators tried to make these anti-Black laws even worse.

Black Californians were indeed critical to Lee’s ultimate liberation. But much — in fact, almost everything — is missing from the commission’s version of events.

The curious might start with these questions: If California’s political establishment was so hostile to black Californians, how did “Black activists” manage the trick of “several more lawsuits” and the persuasion of “a federal legal official” to liberate Lee?

The answer: They did not act alone or without resources. One of those “Black activists” was Mary Ellen Pleasant, a millionaire, high-profile philanthropist, and abolitionist. When Lee escaped from Stovall, Pleasant gave him shelter and then helped finance two state cases that came before the state supreme court’s execrable decision to remand Lee to Stovall’s custody. Lee’s attorney throughout the ordeal was Edwin Crocker, a white man, and the chairman of California’s first Republican Party gathering, in 1856.

It was arguably the partnership of Crocker and Pleasant that kept Lee free and in California through the first state-court case and subsequent appeal. When the state supreme court asserted that Lee must be returned to Stovall, it was Crocker who persuaded T. W. Freelon, a (white) federal judge in San Francisco, to overturn the state high court’s stupid ruling. And when Stovall nevertheless attempted to kidnap Lee aboard the Orizaba, a ship anchored in San Francisco harbor, white policemen carried out a search to rescue Lee. They found and freed him. Stovall returned to Mississippi sans Lee. Perhaps shaken by his near miss or lured by gold fever, or both, Lee left California for British Columbia that same year.

But to acknowledge all of this would mean trouble for a government task force determined to find evidence of systemic violence against black Californians. Despite the commission’s bias, there were such Californians as Biddy Mason and Mary Ellen Pleasant — black, independent, and financially successful women. There were also white attorneys willing to fight for black freedom in a decade of national chaos in which the rights of black Americans were in flux. More important, there were white California officials — judges, police, and others — willing to enforce laws defending black Californians. Systematically ignoring this evidence is Orwellian, an official government endeavor designed to obscure history for momentary political gain. If successful, it will rob all Californians, including black Californians, of aspirational models of the hard work of freedom — and of hard work generally.

*   *   *

The commission’s childish and dangerous account of the case of Archy Lee is a masterpiece of academic rigor compared with its complete silence on the outsized role played by Californians in the Civil War itself.

Though California entered the Union a free state, Southern apologists never surrendered their hope of one day capturing the Golden State. These fantasists foresaw the creation of a vast slave empire, fueled by California gold and run through Pacific Ocean ports, stretching not just coast to coast but globally, too — south through Mexico, Central and South America, all the way to frigid Tierra del Fuego, and westward across the Pacific Ocean to grasp all of Asia.

When the Union blocked Southern ports in the summer of 1861, Richmond’s malignant California dream became an urgent military necessity. Confederate troops massing ominously in West Texas suddenly crossed that border, invading the New Mexico Territory and establishing a regional capital in Mesilla with an outpost farther west in Tucson. From that fortress town, the rebels began probing the desert path to California.

Set against Southern ambition, some 2,000 Californians volunteered for training at Camp Downey, in what’s now Oakland. This newly minted First California Volunteer Infantry, along with regular Army units, was shipped to Los Angeles and from there stepped off on a 900-mile march across Southern California’s hellish eastern deserts toward the Confederate Army. Water and food were scarce along the route. Just as formidable were the Apache Indians; fierce defenders of their historic lands, they were a constant threat to the Californians.

Still, they marched. On April 15, 1862, at Picacho Pass, 50 miles northwest of Tucson, twelve California scouts ran into ten rebel “pickets” — guards at the westernmost tip of the advancing Confederate Army. Their engagement was brief and deadly. Irish-born Californian lieutenant James Barrett led the attack, quickly capturing three Confederates and killing another. But when he had secured one of the prisoners and swung back onto his mount, Barrett was briefly in the range of a sharp-eyed rebel sniper. Shot through the neck, Barrett bled out on the spot. Two other Californians, Privates George Johnson and William Leonard, were shot and died nearby.

The retreating Confederate pickets carried news of the advancing California Column back to their outpost in Tucson; from there, the Confederates packed up and fled back to Texas.

The Battle of Picacho Pass ended the western advance of the most malignant force in the first American century. It ended the slaveholders’ dream of global empire. But that achievement left behind the dreams of three young Californians. Johnson was just 21, Leonard perhaps 26; their bodies were returned to California and buried at the San Francisco Presidio. Barrett’s body, reportedly buried in a shallow grave, was never found. In 1928, the Arizona Pioneers Historical Society and the Southern Pacific Railroad erected a monument, near U.S. 10, to recall their sacrifice in the “only battle of the Civil War fought in Arizona Territory.”

The California Column wasn’t unique. From a state population of just 380,000, more than 17,000 Californians joined the Union ranks — “the highest per-capita total for any state in the Union,” notes the state’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Fewer than 300 Californians left to join the Confederacy.

Few Americans today recall the Californians’ commitment. There is no mention of it in the state’s reparations report. Here as elsewhere, the commission’s report often speaks loudest in its silences.

*   *   *

One of those silences is the commission’s refusal to explain the voluntary, post–Civil War migration of millions of black Americans to California, including to Weed, a flourishing lumber town.

But Weed was eventually destroyed, and with it the prosperous black and other migrant families that built the town. It was destroyed not by slavers or white racists or “systemic racism.” It was destroyed by well-meaning but shortsighted liberal politicians — state and federal officials who linked arms with environmental activists and began squeezing the life out of the Northwest timber industry, including Weed. Blindly privileging such remarkable species as the spotted owl over the more common human person, California state and federal regulators locked down the forests.

This overregulation of California’s lumber industry was supposed to save the planet. Instead, it has done the opposite. It began with the gradual, ceaseless piling up of federal, state, and local regulations. The pile is now so large it is a kind of monument to human arrogance, a record of the government’s doomed effort to cover every eventuality, from “forest health, wildlife habitat, water and air quality, archeological sites, [and] land use patterns” to “respect for community sentiments,” as researchers put it in a 2005 study of the decline and fall of the California timber industry. Those “growing regulations have only created costlier sales, not ‘cleaner’ ones,” the researchers concluded. In the process, these programs undermined the wealth and opportunities of working Californians, including the black Californians about whom the commission says it is most concerned.

*   *   *

The reparations task force concluded that “American government at all levels, including in California, has historically criminalized African Americans for the purposes of social control and to maintain an economy based on exploited Black labor.” Yet progressive government itself is the enemy of disadvantaged Californians. Confronting these massive failures would bring the state task force face-to-face with its own fellow ideologues: government unions, environmental-justice warriors, and progressive government officials. I’ll call back one last time to my prior piece:

Take the state’s execrable public education system. California ranks dead last in the nation in literacy. Black children are the most brutalized [by] these failures: Only 10% meet math standards and about 30% achieve English competency. Yet as test scores fall, high school graduations rise. Denied a real education, many of these children will qualify only for low-level jobs and government assistance.

The commission calls this a “school-to-prison pipeline” and blames slavery.

But the problems clearly start in the schools. In the classroom, collective bargaining gives union leaders authority over teacher hiring and firing; they use this authority to reward loyalists, punish reformers, and move failing teachers into broken schools where overwhelmed poor parents are unlikely to notice.

Click here to read the full article at National Review

California’s Reparations Scam: Michael Jackson’s Kids Would Get Payouts

California’s reparations con game is like a Nigerian Prince email scam

In 2020 the California legislature passed AB 3121 which created a 9-person task force to study California’s “complicity in slavery.” The task force would also be authorized to make recommendations to the state legislature about payments – also known as reparations.

Even if one could prove the dubious theory that the economic state of Blacks today is a result of America’s legacy of slavery, the state of California wouldn’t be the first place or even the second place to focus on this slavery.  Since 1850 when California became a state its Constitution expressly forbid slavery, and it never supported the Confederacy during the Civil War.

It turns out that though California didn’t promote slavery, today it is one of the places willing to entertain bad ideas, however.

Rather than focus on how California’s poor public schools have failed poor Blacks and white alike? Or how its anti-business regulatory climate has eroded the ability of its poorer residents to climb out of poverty and into the middle class, elites in the state have moved to distract disadvantaged voters with the reparations con.

This high-stakes con game will prove no more beneficial to Blacks in California than the typical recipients of the Nigerian Prince email scam.

The Reparations Task Force has already pledged that nearly 80 percent of California’s 2.6 million Black residents will be granted reparations. The task force cannot achieve this goal – even if it was legal, which it is not.

First, the math simply doesn’t work. Consider: if all of the ‘eligible’ Blacks in California were merely given $1000 in reparations the cost to California would exceed $2 billion.  But that compensation would in no way equal the staggering claims made by the racial alarmists that push for reparations. $1,000 would be a pittance of the injuries that they claim that blacks have faced in California.

Using questionable calculations that wouldn’t get a passing grade in junior high, the task force has estimated that the “compounded” injury to Blacks that have lived their entire lives in California would equal 100k for every year of their residency in the state.  Consider, for just one year of reparations using this measure, the state would be on the hook for $200 billion – out of a 300 billion state budget as of 2022.  The median age of Blacks in California is 36.5.  When you factor in that median age payouts equal nearly a trillion.  There is no scenario where this will occur.

Second, who should receive payments? Per the decision of the task force, only Blacks who are descendants of slavery are eligible. Persons born outside of the U.S. aren’t eligible. 

But should all others be eligible? What about Michael Jackson’s kids? Should his oldest son Michael “Prince” Joseph Jackson, Jr. receive a payment? Using the online calculator set up by the reparations task force he’d be eligible for a half a million payout. This despite there being no evidence that he has ever faced discrimination because he is the son of a black man. And the same is true for his siblings. Yet the task force would also award the three more than a cool million. In fact, the task force hasn’t set up any criteria other than race for eligibility. Has in fact every black descendant of slavery suffered injury? The task force says yes, but they present no evidence to prove their claims.

Merely being black is a sufficient basis for getting a payment per the task force.  But who is Black? Do recipients self-select and declare themselves black? Will California restore the odious “one drop rule” and decide that any black descendant is sufficient to make someone black? Alternatively, will the state of California use visual inspectors a la Plessy v Ferguson to sort out who is who? Or must recipients submit DNA samples to show their heritage?

Whatever method California adopts is fraught with danger. As a melting pot nation, black Americans have intermarried at higher and higher rates over the last 100 years and not every one of those children born of such unions identify as black.  Increasingly Americans of all stripes identify as other proving that forcing people to choose being only black is completely unworkable.

Finally, the task forces objectives are illegal. Courts are highly skeptical of any public policy effort that relies primarily on race to provide a benefit or detriment.  There was a time when “separate but equal” was the law of the land. But that ruling was overturned and today after a long line of rulings starting with Brown v. Board of Education, even modest raced-based policies are highly scrutinized.

Whatever method California adopts is fraught with danger. As a melting pot nation, black Americans have intermarried at higher and higher rates over the last 100 years and not every one of those children born of such unions identify as black.  Increasingly Americans of all stripes identify as other proving that forcing people to choose being only black is completely unworkable.

Finally, the task forces objectives are illegal. Courts are highly skeptical of any public policy effort that relies primarily on race to provide a benefit or detriment.  There was a time when “separate but equal” was the law of the land. But that ruling was overturned and today after a long line of rulings starting with Brown v. Board of Education, even modest raced-based policies are highly scrutinized.

Click here to read the full article in FoxNews

Equity vs. Equality: California Reparations Commission Wants to Legalize Racial Discrimination

Newsom-backed task force recommends nixing Proposition 209, which prohibits discrimination

“With a ‘Reparations Management Council’ to operate independent of the government of San Francisco, what could possibly go wrong?” the Globe asked earlier this week.

San Francisco resident Richie Greenberg has identified that the San Francisco Reparations Plan “installs a neo-Apartheid system on a city of 45,000 Black/African-American residents being given super-prioritized services, funding and extraordinary privilege – out of total city population of 825,000. The result is Apartheid San Francisco, where 5% Black residents take the resources and economic earnings of the 95% non-Black residents.”

As the Globe reported in January, both the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee and State Reparations Task Force are expanding reparations beyond slavery. It’s become a grab and hustle for all grievances. But where does this end?

Buckle up and hold on tightly – they said the quiet parts aloud: “the racial wealth gap in the state of California.”

As the Globe reported in December, Reparations task force member Jovan Scott Lewis said: “Spoiler-alert: We don’t yet know the racial wealth gap in the state of California.” This is the preliminary conversation to figure out what we know and what we don’t know.”

Remember this: “Racial wealth gap.”

Another task force member Dr. Cheryl Grills said: “Racial terror leads to racial trauma … also known as race-based traumatic stress.”

Fox News now reports that the statewide California Reparations Task Force, created by legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, formally recommended that the state legislature repeal Proposition 209, a constitutional amendment that prohibits the government from discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, someone based on their race.

Proposition 209, a ban on affirmative action, was passed by California voters in 1996, and prohibits discrimination or preferential treatment by the state, public universities, public employment, or other public entities, and banned affirmative action policies.

In 2020, voters even reaffirmed the ban on affirmative action policies and practices by voting down Proposition 16, 57% to 42%. Prop. 16 qualified for the ballot when ACA 5, authored by then-Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), was passed by the California legislature in 2020. If passed, Prop. 16 would have repealed Proposition 209.

Imagine the coincidence that the statewide reparations committee is the result of legislation also authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), Assembly Bill 3121, passed in 2021.

So it now appears that the California Reparations Task Force has taken up the affirmative action mantle and will backdoor granting preferential treatment based on race via their final recommendations to the California Legislature.

However, as we reported in January, both the San Francisco and state Reparations committees are seriously neglecting the state’s rich ethnic history, favoring race hustling instead.

A local historian friend sent this:

“Before and during the Civil War militia companies were ethnic, generally social groups with others from the ‘old country’ such as German, Irish, and Italian companies all over northern California. This was not then considered segregation, it was a place to socialize with those of similar backgrounds. Sacramento had a black militia company in that era. Many from those units joined the California Volunteers and fought in the eastern battles.
In the [Sacramento] Land Park area (there is a monument marker in the park) was Camp Union Sutterville where seven regiments of infantry, two regiments of cavalry, and smaller specialized units were trained and participated primarily in two Union moves. One was to replace regular army troops in the west and they garrisoned posts all the way to Salt Lake City, founding an army base in that area that is still active. The other went to southern California and joined units raised in that area. Confederates had occupied what is now Arizona and New Mexico up to the California border. Camp Union troops were involved with pushing them back into Texas and when the war ended Sacramento troops were well established in that state.”

Every kid in California should know this.

As Fox reported:

“The [statewide reparations] task force highlights a study commissioned by the far-left Equal Justice Society, an organization of which a task force member is president, that concluded between $1 billion and $1.1 billion in contract dollars were lost annually by businesses owned by women and people of color due to Proposition 209. The task force’s report also argued admissions declined for Black applicants ‘at every campus.’”

“According to UCLA law professor Richard Sander, however, the number of Black graduates from the University of California had risen 70% above pre-Proposition 209 levels by 2017. That same year, he wrote, the number of STEM graduates rose from an annual average of around 200 before Proposition 209 to 510. The figure increased to 558 in 2018.”

“It is unclear how repealing a measure that bars discrimination or preferential treatment based on race would help combat racial discrimination,” Fox concluded. Indeed.

This topic isn’t going away, and the left isn’t giving up. A bill last year by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and 52 House Democrats sought reparations and a national apology for slavery. They are still pushing to set up a commission to “examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies,” the New York Post reported.

As the Globe reported in December, the state Reparations Task Force is already pulling a bait-and-switch on Californians –  with talk of a “racial wealth gap,” “racial terror,” “race-based traumatic stress,” and “guaranteed income for dependents of slaves.” But what they are really promoting is social justice reparations and nothing more than a redistribution of wealth.

California has very serious problems that lawmakers seem disinterested in fixing:

  • California is home to one-third of the nations’ welfare recipients and has the highest poverty;
  • Our failing schools now rank 48th in the country;
  • California lawmakers can’t build new homes or apartments for less than $800,000 each (luxury level costs);
  • The governor and lawmakers can’t figure out what to do with several hundred thousand drug-addicted, mentally ill homeless vagrants living on city streets and taking over public parks;
  • California lawmakers refuse to build additional reservoirs for water storage in a state in which drought conditions are historically normal, and now has a regular wildfire “season;”
  • California lawmakers and governor mandated all electric vehicles within a few years, but can’t keep the power on during heat spells and winter storms;
  • Lawmakers authorized more than $25 million worth of taxpayer-funded guaranteed income to some individuals in the state, but can’t really tell you why.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

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