On March 30, members of California’s reparations taskforce team issued a major proposal that could make restitution for Black Americans living in the golden state a reality.
After hours of deliberation and emotional testimonies, committee members hashed out a 5-4 vote in favor of issuing reparation payments to Black California residents who are descendants of slaves in the U.S. It’s still unclear as to how the money will be distributed and how much restitution will be given to eligible Black Californians. On Wednesday, NAACP President Rev. Amos Brown pled with committee members to finalize an official proposal.
“Please, please, please I beg us tonight, take the first step,” Brown, who is also the vice-chair of the task force, said, AP News reported. ”We’ve got to give emergency treatment to where it is needed.”
While a large majority of the committee agreed to the decision, some officials argued that the proposal should include all Black Americans. Wednesday’s decision means that Black immigrants living in the state would be ineligible to receive reparation payments. The vote established that only Black Californians “who are able to trace their lineage back to enslaved ancestors ” in the U.S. would be considered, according to Call Matters.
“We need to galvanize the base and that is Black people,” civil rights attorney and task force member Lisa Holder argued .“We can’t go into this reparations proposal without having all African Americans in California behind us.” Holder proposed that the task force should use California’s 2.6 million Black residents to calculate a proper compensation plan as they continue to draw up an effective proposal.
However, Kamila Moore, the chair of the task force, claimed that expanding eligibility would go against the purpose of the committee’s ethos.
“That is going to aggrieve the victims of the institution of slavery, which are the direct descendants of the enslaved people in the United States,” she said. “It goes against the spirit of the law as written.”
Back in 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation to spearhead the two-year task force with the hopes of examining slavery’s legacy in America and its effect on Black Americans. Taskforce members have spent the last 10 months discussing a myriad of topics from Jim Crow Laws and redlining to housing discrimination and environmental racism, all of which have severely hindered the rights of Black Americans living in California and across the U.S.
Since the launch of the committee, a few other states have formed their own reparation programs like Providence, Rhode Island. In February, Mayor Jorge Elorza signed an executive order to create a “Truth-Telling, Reconciliation and Municipal Reparations Process” that would explore the feasibility of issuing direct cash payments to Black residents.
“We’re putting a marker on the ground and committing to elevating this conversation and using the levers at our disposal to correct the wrongs of the past,” Elorza said of his decision, according to The Providence Journal. Officials from Boston are currently developing plans to launch their own reparations committee.