Black California lawmakers introducing package of reparations bills

By Thomson Reuters Feb 21, 2024 | 4:08 AM

By Brad Brooks

(Reuters) – Members of California’s Legislative Black Caucus on Wednesday will detail a package of 14 reparations bills they are introducing to right historic wrongs carried out against the Black community.

The bills are meant to be the first step in a multi-year effort. Among several issues, they would compensate people whose property was taken in race-based cases of eminent domain, seek an apology from the governor and legislature for human rights violations, and fund community-based programs to decrease violence in Black communities.

But none of the bills being proposed call for cash reparations to be paid, which has garnered criticism from some members of the Black community.

“While many only associate direct cash payments with reparations the true meaning of the word, to repair, involves much more,” Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson, Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, said in a written statement.

The 14 bills are the first legislative action from an extensive 1,100-page report delivered in June to lawmakers by the California reparations task force, a group created by a state bill in 2020. The task force worked for two years on its report, which urged legislators to take action on over 100 recommendations.

Americans are divided on the issue of reparations.

A Reuters/Ipsos survey published earlier this year found that nearly 60% of respondents identifying as Democrats support reparations. Just 18% of Republicans do.

The split is even greater between Black and white Americans: the poll found that 74% of Black Americans favor reparations compared to 26% of white Americans.

California Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer said the package of bills would address decades of laws and policies designed to restrict and alienate Black Americans.

“These atrocities are found in education, access to homeownership, and to capital for small business startups, all of which contributed to the denial of generational wealth over hundreds of years,” Jones-Sawyer said in a written statement.

Civil Rights attorney Areva Martin, the lead counsel for a group of over 1,000 survivors and their descendents whose community was taken by the city of Palm Springs in the 1950s and 1960s, praised the first legislative steps.

But Martin said cash payments clearly need to be made to Black Californians – just as such payments have been made to other wronged groups in the U.S., such as Japanese Americans interned in camps during World War Two.

“People get squirmish about cash payments – and they shouldn’t. There is only this trepidation when it comes to African Americans,” Martin said.

“I think some of that is because anti-Blackness is so pervasive. It also has to do with racist tropes around Black folks and our inability to handle money.”

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Longmont, Colorado; editing by Miral Fahmy)