May 9, 2023 - News

California's reparations proposal inches forward

person holds up sign that says "world leaders! reparations for slavery now!"

Walter Foster of Los Angeles states his case at a reparations task force meeting in September 2022 in L.A. Photo: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Parallel efforts to establish reparations to California's Black residents and descendants are moving forward, with a state task force adopting recommendations that are now being proposed to the Legislature as San Francisco continues to work on its own process.

Driving the news: The California Reparations Task Force on Saturday voted to adopt a number of recommendations, including cash payments, a formal apology and policy reforms, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Why it matters: The report includes three financial estimates that address harms from discriminatory housing policies, mass incarceration and health disparities.

Details: If state lawmakers create and approve legislation using the report's estimates, a 71-year-old lifelong Black resident could receive about $1.2 million in total compensation, the New York Times reports.

  • Yes, but: Only those who can trace their lineage to chattel slavery in the U.S. or whose ancestors were free Black people in the country before 1900 would be eligible, according to the report.

What they're saying: "It's a model for other states in search of reparative damage, realistic avenues for addressing the need for reparations," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said at Saturday's meeting.

Zoom in: In San Francisco, the city is going through its own process to determine dozens of potential reparations, including a one-time, lump sum payment of $5 million to each eligible person and payroll and property tax exemptions for Black business owners.

  • In March, the city's Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution accepting the draft plan of the African American Reparations Advisory Committee (AARAC).

State of play: Tinisch Hollins, vice chair of the AARAC, told Axios San Francisco that because of the city's own history of displacement, workforce discrimination and health disparities, it's important for San Francisco to have its own process.

  • Hollins also noted how the city's process could help set a legal precedent around reparations, especially in the event reparations don't move forward at the state level.
  • "For me, as an organizer and a policy advocate, it's really about creating the legal and legislative opportunity to make sure the resources go directly to Black San Franciscans," she said.

Zoom out: In 2021, Evanston, Illinois, became the first place in the country to approve reparations when it committed to distributing $10 million to Black residents, Axios' Rebecca Falconer reports.

What to watch: By July 1, California's task force will send its proposal to state lawmakers, who will then determine whether to implement all or parts of it through legislation.

  • In San Francisco, the reparations committee will submit its final recommendations in June to city supervisors as well as the mayor.
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