The California Reparations Task Force has officially adopted a report that proposes sweeping policy changes, formal apologies, and cash payments to some black Californians to address historic racial inequities in the state.
The recommendations include a rough estimate of the financial damage caused by systemic racism and limit eligibility for compensation to those who can trace their lineage to chattel slavery or descendants of free black persons living in the US before 1900, as the Chronicle reported. The number —up to $1.2 million per person over a lifetime — isn’t necessarily how much the state would dole out, just an assessment of damage.
The report also recommends policy changes involving the justice system, housing rules, and employment practices.
The task force is the first statewide body to tackle such questions, and its conclusions are likely to influence similar efforts in other states, according to the Chronicle.
A public comment period featured several Black Californians sharing stories of their ancestors, emphasizing the need for reparations, and criticizing the task force for defining eligibility too narrowly and making a damage estimate they said is too low.
As ABC7 reported, the final report will contain 95 recommendations for determining what reparations will look like in the future. It isn’t law yet — state legislators must pass all or some of the recommendations come July.
Oakland's Representative Barbara Lee, who is cosponsoring a bill in Congress to study restitution proposals for African Americans, at the meeting called on states and the federal government to pass reparations legislation, saying "reparations are not only morally justifiable, but they have the potential to address longstanding racial disparities and inequalities," as the Chronicle reported.
After the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020, lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom formed a nine-member task force to investigate the history of systemic racism in California and how it has affected Black residents. The task force reportedly has spent the last two years conducting research on this issue.
Additionally, San Francisco has established its own reparations advisory committee, which will release its own proposal in June. The preliminary proposal suggests that eligible recipients should receive a one-time lump sum payment of $5 million as reparations.
Chris Lodgson, an organizer with the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, a reparations advocacy group, told ABC7 that the state must do what’s right: "An apology and an admission of wrongdoing just by itself is not going to be satisfactory,” he said.
Image of livestream of Reparations Task Force Meetingfrom California Department of Justice on May 6, 2023.