Spearheading the nation’s first attempt to redress past discriminatory government policies that specifically targeted black Americans, a California reparations task force is estimating a compensation package for housing discrimination totaling $569 billion to be paid to state residents who identify as “Black” or “African American.”
The nine-member task force was assembled following legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020 which sought to study the issue of reparations, recommend ways to educate the public, and recommend remedies.
“We are looking at reparations on a scale that is the largest since Reconstruction,” Jovan Scott Lewis, Ph.D, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and member of the task force, told the New York Times.
This summer, the task force released a 500-page interim report detailing what it called badges and incidents that “remain embedded in the political, legal, health, financial, educational, cultural, environmental, social, and economic systems of the United States of America.”
While many proponents of reparations packages cite the need to compensate black Americans for chattel slavery, California’s task force focuses heavily on government policy enacted post-Reconstruction.
“In California, federal, state, and local governments created segregation through discriminatory federal housing policies, zoning ordinances, decisions on where to build schools, and discriminatory federal mortgage policies known as redlining,” the report says.
The final report from the task force is due in June 2023, but it is unclear if lawmakers will adopt any of the panel’s recommendations into law. “That is why we must put forward a robust plan, with plenty of options,” Dr. Lewis told the Times.
One task force member told an audience at a public meeting it would be a “major hurdle” to get state legislators to pass a reparations plan.
“For a state that didn’t have slavery, don’t think they’re going to be quick to vote on this final product of this task force,” said California State Sen. Steven Bradford. “We need to stay unified, we need to be together. We aren’t always going to agree, but we have to put forth a unified front.”
Recently, local jurisdictions within California have also explored ways to compensate victims of past discrimination.
In June, a Los Angeles county commission voted unanimously to return a beachfront resort that was seized from a black family nearly a century ago.
Bruce’s Beach, originally purchased in 1912 by Willa and Charles Bruce, was illegally taken by city officials in 1924 after racially-motivated attacks failed to drive them away.
Now that the property has been returned to the Bruce family, it will be leased back to L.A. County for $413,000 per year. The family also has the option to sell the beach to the County for up to $20 million.