A task force focusing on reparations for black Americans met for the first time Tuesday in California, where participants discussed possible compensation for those who are descendants of slaves, The Associated Press (AP) reported Wednesday.
The task force, composed of nine members, was established after Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill in early May that was authored by Democratic Assemblymember Shirley Weber. The task force members included descendants of slaves who are now lawyers, academics and politicians, according to the AP. Weber has since entered the role of California’s secretary of state. (RELATED: California Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Law Creating Task Force To Consider How Slavery Reparations Would Be Distributed)
“I’m so thankful to my ancestors, who survived so much trauma, so much pain, so much tragedy, so much brutality, so that I could live,” Lisa Holder, a civil rights attorney in Los Angeles, said, according to the AP. “And I am ready to fight to deliver them — our ancestors — justice.”
Weber noted disparities in wealth, health and education that exist in the U.S. as indications of racial injustice that continue to exist.
“Following the abolition of slavery, government entities at the federal, state, and local levels continued to perpetuate, condone, and often profit from practices that brutalized African Americans and excluded them from meaningful participation in society,” the bill said. “This legacy of slavery and racial discrimination has resulted in debilitating economic, educational, and health hardships that are uniquely experienced by African Americans.”
Weber said during the task force meeting that it was their mission to “determine the depth of the harm, and the ways in which we are to repair that harm,” according to the AP.
Critics of the bill have said that since California did not have slaves, taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for reparations, the AP reported. But Weber suggested California could lead the federal government to adopt an approach to reparations.
Members of the task force discussed how racism and discriminatory laws held black people back from getting conventional bank loans and buying homes, and how neighborhoods where black Americans lived were razed to make room for development.
State Sen. Steven Bradford said he wanted to model a reparations program on the GI bill, which has helped cover all or some of the costs of education for veterans. Bradford would want a similar policy that would provide free college and aid with home-buying for black Americans, according to the AP.
“We have lost more than we have ever taken from this country. We have given more than has ever been given to us,” Bradford said during the meeting.
California this morning is officially launching its task force to study reparations for African Americans.
CA Attorney General @AGRobBonta opens the program
“Yes there has been progress in this country, but it has not moved fast enough.”
— Ashley Zavala (@ZavalaA) June 1, 2021
A federal slavery reparations bill was first introduced in 1989 but had never reached a committee vote before April. The bill, entitled The Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, passed out of the House Judiciary Committee.
The City Council of Evanston, Illinois approved the U.S.’s first reparations program for black people a month earlier, and reparations efforts have been considered in cities in Rhode Island, North Carolina, Vermont and Massachusetts, according to Human Rights Watch.
Newsom has previously issued a formal apology to Native American tribal leaders in 2019, and announced the creation of a council to study the state’s role in the “genocide” of Native Americans, according to the AP.