Imperial Valley Press
Californians await key decisions from reparations task force
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Nearly two years into the California reparations task force’s work, the group still has yet to make key decisions that will be at the heart of its final report recommending how the state should apologize and compensate Black residents for the harms caused by slavery and discrimination.
A vote possibly slated for this weekend on requirements for who would be eligible for payments and other remedies was delayed because of the absence of one of the committee’s nine members. But the group may vote Saturday on whether lawmakers should create an agency to implement an eventual reparations program.
Lawmakers passed legislation in 2020 creating the task force to assess how the legacy of slavery harmed African Americans long after its abolition through education, criminal justice and other disparities. The legislation directs the task force to study reparations proposals “with a special consideration for” the descendants of enslaved Black people living in California and is not meant to create a program in lieu of one from the federal government.
The work of the task force has captured widespread attention, a result of being the first of its kind in the country. But some used the group’s latest two-day meeting in Sacramento to warn that not enough Black Californians are sufficiently informed about its work.
One resident said the task force’s groundbreaking interim 500-page report, released last year, should be made available in libraries and schools. But others said it’s not just up to the task force and its communications team to get the word out on their work.
“This room should be filled with media, and it’s not because Black people are a pariah,” Los Angeles lawyer Cheryce Cryer said Saturday. “We are at the bottom of the totem pole.”
The two-day gathering in Sacramento, the state’s capital, comes as the group approaches its July 1 deadline to release a report for lawmakers. The document will represent a milestone in a growing push for reparations efforts in different parts of the country. It is a movement that has garnered support from a large share of African Americans, but also advocates that include Japanese Americans who fought for families to receive payments from the federal government after residents were placed in internment camps during World War II.
Sacramento resident Tariq Alami, who has been following along with the task force’s work since its early stages, said it is clear the government should have passed reparations for Black Americans a long time ago.
“It doesn’t take a genius to see that there are differences in the society as a result of what we have encountered as Black people,” Alami said.
Dozens of advocates and residents came from across the state to the California Environmental Protection Agency building to give public comments Friday and Saturday that ranged from detailing family histories of having property seized from ancestors to calling on federal lawmakers to follow California’s lead.
After the task force releases its final report, the fate of its recommendations would then lie with state legislators, two of whom are members of the task force — Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer and state Sen. Steven Bradford, both Democrats representing parts of Los Angeles County. Lawmakers would also decide where funding for any reparations legislation may come from.
The task force has spent multiple meetings discussing what time frames reparations could hinge on for five harms economists are pursuing estimates for to help quantify the extent of discriminatory policies against Black Californians.
Those economists said Friday that some of the data and information they still need to come up with additional estimates for include figures on the gap between what the government paid Black residents for property it seized and the actual value of that property.
The task force previously proposed the following time frames for the five harms, which begin either when the state was founded or when certain discriminatory policies were implemented: 1933 to 1977 for housing discrimination and homelessness, 1970 to 2020 for over-policing and mass incarceration, 1850 to 2020 for unjust property takings, 1900 to 2020 for health harms, and 1850 to 2020 for devaluation of Blackowned businesses.