More than two years after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police, a nine-member Reparations Task Force estimated that Black Californians could receive more than $223,000 each in reparations for the lasting economic effects of racism and slavery.
In the United States, California was the first state to mandate the inclusion of a new demographic group: people descended from enslaved people. Months have been spent by the task force, established by a law signed by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020, exploring the West Coast state to learn about the effects of these policies.
According to the task force’s report from March 2022, those entitled to reparations would be the descendants of African Americans who were either enslaved or “free Black people living in the United States before the end of the 19th century.”
Reparations will be given only to those who can prove they fall into one of these categories. An estimated 2.6% of California’s population is Black, with roughly 20% being direct descendants of enslaved people.
The team is considering housing discrimination, mass incarceration, unjust property seizures, the devaluation of Black-owned businesses, and health care to determine the number of reparations to be paid.
$569 billion in reparations would need to be paid to African Americans in California due to housing discrimination from 1933 to 1977, or approximately $223,000 per individual. The total reparations proposed are the largest in history and are expected to exceed that amount.
Over four million Africans and their families lost their freedom and cultural legacy due to slavery in the past
In 2023, the total cost of the reparations will be made public, at which point it will be up to legislators to decide whether or not to implement the recommendations and how the funds will be allocated. Newsom and the other legislators will need to approve the reparations.
The panel is currently debating whether to recommend that reparations be distributed in the form of grants for healthcare, education, or housing or cash payments.
“We are looking at reparations on a scale that is the largest since Reconstruction,” Jovan Scott Lewis, an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a task force member told The Times.
Lewis elaborated, “That’s why we need to put forward a robust plan with plenty of options”
The group’s mission is to reduce the racial and economic disparity between white and Black Californians. As reported by the Federal Reserve Board Survey of Consumer Finances, the median wealth of Black households in the United States is $24,100, whereas that of white families is $188,200.
The task force reported in June 2022 that Black Americans were driven to California during the Gold Rush era and that the state had “historically criminalized African Americans for social control and to preserve an economy based on exploited Black labor.”
The task force concluded that the “enormous” wealth gap between white and Black Americans in California today is the direct result of government actions that aided white Americans in creating wealth while acting as impediments to Black Americans in doing the same.