Jun 1, 2022 - Politics & Policy

California releases report outlining harms from state against Black people

Picture of people holding a "Black Lives Matter" flag

Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

California's task force on reparations released a report Wednesday detailing how the state has systematically abused Black people since slavery.

Why it matters: The report comes amid nationwide conversations surrounding reparations, as well as what justice should look like for Black Americans who continue to suffer discrimination and barriers to opportunity as a result of white supremacy.

  • The task force said the state must right its "moral and legal" wrongs and outlined recommendations on how to address the historical harms that have created severe racial disparities in health, financial and political outcomes.
  • It's the first government-commissioned report on harms brought to the Black community in over 50 years, AP reports.

The big picture: California's task force to consider reparations for Black Americans was created in 2020 and is the first such panel in the nation, with the potential to shape reparations discussions in other parts of the country.

Details: "From colonial times forward, governments at all levels adopted and enshrined white supremacy beliefs and passed laws in order to maintain slavery, a system of dehumanization and exploitation that stole the life, labor, liberty, and intellect of people of African descent," the report says.

  • This "system of white supremacy" — which the report said was "maintained by, and financially benefited, the entire United States" and its territories — is a "persistent badge of slavery that continues to be embedded today in numerous American and California legal, economic, and social and political systems."
  • Governments including California have "historically criminalized African Americans for the purposes of social control, and to maintain an economy based on exploited Black labor."
  • "[L]aws and policies perpetuating badges of slavery helped white Americans accumulate wealth, while erecting barriers that have prevented African Americans from doing the same," states the report, which points to state-sanctioned demolitions of Black neighborhoods, lack of funding for predominantly Black schools, police violence and voter suppression laws.

The report's recommendations include:

  • It directed the state to end "legal slavery in California" by deleting language from the state Constitution "that permits involuntary servitude as punishment for crime."
  • It is also urging the state to send the report to President Biden and Congress "with a recommendation that the federal government create a Reparations Commission for African Americans/American Freedmen through statute or executive action."
  • The state must acknowledge and apologize for "acts of political disenfranchisement." It must also take action to support Black people's equal access to education, and "make it easier to hold law enforcement officers ... and their employing agencies accountable for unlawful harassment and violence."
  • State officials must end "anti-Black housing discrimination policies practices" as well as "discriminatory policing and particularly killings, use of force, and racial profiling of African Americans."
  • Other recommendations include measures to address the racial wealth gap, fix an "unjust legal system" and compensate for the mental and physical harm and neglect government officials have inflicted on Black individuals.

What they're saying: "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 task force Chair Kamilah Moore, per AP.

  • Moore noted that the report also showcases the "contributions of the African American community and how they made the United States what it is despite ongoing oppression and degradation."

What's next: The task force said that this is an interim report with a set of "preliminary recommendations" and that a final report will be issued before July 1, 2023.

Read the full report here.

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