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California Reparations Task Force Recommends ‘Down Payments’ for Racism and Slavery Ahead of Critical Vote 

The California Reparations Task Force is recommending that the state apologize for slavery and racism while also making “down payments” to eligible Black residents. The recommendation comes as the Reparations Task Force prepares to vote on the proposal on May 6 in Oakland.

The task force will decide on a list of proposals for the state at the vote, including making down payments on reparations for Black residents as well as apologizing for racist policies and behaviors Black residents have faced since the state was founded in 1850.

The 500-page draft includes several policies that affected Black residents in California such as the over-policing Black communities, more exposure to environmental pollution, unequal access to health care and housing discrimination.

Slavery pic
The California Reparations Task Force recommends down payments for eligible Black residents and an apology. (Photo: KRON News screenshot / YouTube)

The task force was established by lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to study how California has historically harmed and discriminated against Black residents and to prescribe a reparations plan.

The plan did not include the total price for California paying Black residents reparations and instead laid out a plan to calculate how much money Black residents have lost since California was established through today due to government policies and practices. 

The estimates range from $2,300 per person for every year they resided in the state for the over-policing of Black communities to $77,000 total per person for Black-owned business losses and devaluations over the years. 

The state of California seized the beachfront property belonging to a Black family in Manhattan Beach in 1924 through a policy known as eminent domain. The Bruce family built a resort for Black people on the property in 1912 and despite the Ku Klux Klan trying to burn it down, the business was successful until the land was stolen by the government.

The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder gave back the deed to the property to Anthony Bruce in 2022. Bruce sold the property back to the county for $20 million.

While the task force has the power to recommend reparations, the state Legislature will decide on the final amount to be paid, if any. If the plan is approved, the task force recommends that a new state agency be established to distribute the funds for eligible residents through “down payments.”

The task force also recommended that everyone eligible should be compensated even if they can not prove they suffered “a specific harm.” 

“The State of California created laws and policies discriminating against and subjugating free and enslaved African Americans and their descendants,” says the plan. “In doing so, these discriminatory policies made no distinctions between these individuals; the compensatory remedy must do the same.” 

The 500-page report also laid out the estimated losses for mass incarceration due to the over-policing of Black communities between 1971-2020, which corresponds to the failed War on Drugs. The task force estimated that each person residing in the state lost $115,260, or $2,352 per year.

Between 1933 to 1977, due to the government’s racist redlining policy, Black residents lost $148,099 per person or $3,366 per year. For health discrimination practices in the state, the task force estimated a loss of $966,921, or $13,619 per person per year for a 71-year-old resident, the current life expectancy of Black people in California.

Hypothetically, a 71-year-old Black resident who lived in the state their entire life would receive more than $1.2 million in reparations.

The task force also noted that Black residents shouldn’t expect reparation down payments anytime soon.

“Eligible Black residents should not expect cash payments anytime soon. The state Legislature and Newsom will decide whether any reparations are paid, and it’s unclear what they will do with the task force recommendations.”

Council member Montgomery Steppe added that the state Legislature needed to support the plan for it to work, and Republicans are expected to fight cash reparations. After San Francisco recommended paying eligible Black residents a one-time $5 million payment, Republican politicians called the plan “unrealistic.”

“The biggest fight is implementation of all these recommendations,” said Steppe. “After the task force issues its final report, those recommendations need strong support in California’s Legislature and the government. It will take all hands on deck to ensure we push for a policy change from our state legislature.” 

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