California Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Law Creating Task Force To Consider How Slavery Reparations Would Be Distributed

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Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law establishing a task force to study how slavery reparations could be distributed, making it the first state to make the move toward potentially compensating black residents, numerous sources reported Wednesday.

The nine-person task force will study how reparations could be awarded and who would be eligible, giving “special consideration for African Americans who are descendants of persons enslaved in the United States,” the law says. 

The legislation was authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a Democrat representing San Diego, who is chair of California’s Legislative Black Caucus. 

“Hundreds of years of racial discrimination in the United States have left many African Americans still disadvantaged in terms of poverty, homelessness, unemployment, the racial wealth gap, and other indicators of economic and educational opportunity,” said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who introduced the bill, in a statement.

While the law doesn’t commit to any specific payment, it establishes the task force that would study the impact of slavery on black people in California and make recommendations to the legislature about what kind of compensation should be provided and what form it should take, NBC reported

“After watching last night’s debate, this signing can’t come too soon,” Newsom said during a videoconference with lawmakers and other stakeholders.

“As a nation, we can only truly thrive when every one of us has the opportunity to thrive. Our painful history of slavery has evolved into structural racism and bias built into and permeating throughout our democratic and economic institutions,” Newsom said in a statement, according to NBC.

California entered the Union as a free state in 1850, and the task force will study issues involving slavery that followed entry, including an 1852 fugitive slave law that said an “enslaved black person who had entered California when it was still a territory had no legal right to freedom even though the state constitution banned slavery,” according to the California Historical Society.

Slavery became illegal throughout the United States in 1865.

State-level reparations that the law authorizes won’t be considered a replacement for reparations “enacted at the federal level,” according to the law.

Democratic contenders for president have previously expressed support for slavery reparations, an initiative not favorable among Republicans. Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden said in February that he that supports a study on slavery reparations while demanding immediate action to correct “institutional racism” in America. (RELATED: Biden Supports Slavery Reparations Study, Wants Immediate Action On ‘Institutional Racism’)