California Announces Reparations Plan…To Mixed Reviews

Los Angeles, CaliforniaSept. 22, 2022Los Angeles long-time resident, Walter Foster, age 80, holds up a sign as the Reparations Task Force meets to hear public input on reparations at the California Science Center in Los Angeles on Sept. 22, 2022. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The California Legislative Black Caucus has announced a package of bills meant to implement recommendations from the state’s landmark task force on reparations.

On the eve of Black History Month, over a dozen bills were introduced by the Black Caucus, including policies that would compensate Black families for “racially motivated land seizures sanctioned by the government,” expand access to education, and issue formal apologies to descendants of the enslaved. 

However, one thing the bills do not call for is widespread direct cash payments to descendants of enslaved Black people, according to The Associated Press. Some of the measures would require amending the state constitution and are likely to face opposition.

If approved, the proposals would expand access to career technical education, fund community-driven solutions to violence and eliminate occupational licensing fees for people with criminal records. Another proposal would pay for programs that increase life expectancy, improve educational outcomes, or lift certain groups out of poverty.

At a news conference Thursday, state Sen. Steven Bradford said the Black caucus’ priority list does not prohibit individual lawmakers from proposing additional reparations legislation.

“This is a defining moment not only in California history, but in American history as well,” said Bradford, who served on the nine-person state task force on reparations.

The 14 proposals announced have been met with mixed reviews. In a statement shared with ESSENCE, national civil rights attorney Areva Martin commended the California Legislative Black Caucus for introducing the legislation but said that more is needed. 

“This is a good start, but we must go further,” said Martin, who is also lead counsel for the Palm Springs Section 14 Survivors whose homes were bulldozed or burned down by the city of Palm Springs to build luxury hotels, shops, and other commercial developments. 

“While other states are examining or considering how to reconcile their past with the present, California is taking action,” said Martin. “However, it is crucial to recognize that true reparations should include cash payments to descendants of enslaved people. In addition to restitution for those who have had their homes destroyed due to racially motivated government takings, we will continue to advocate for a multifaceted approach that includes cash payments for African-American Californians who have endured unfair treatment and have suffered the effects of systemic racism for decades,” she added.

For Chris Lodgson, an organizer with the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, which pushed to create the reparations task force, the proposals are “not reparations.”

“Not one person who is a descendant who is unhoused will be off the street from that list of proposals. Not one single mom who is struggling who is a descendant will be helped,” he said per The Associated Press. “Not one dime of the debt that’s owed is being repaid.”

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