California’s Reparations Task Force Starts Its Work

California has convened a state task force to study the impact of slavery and systemic racism, beginning a discussion on reparations for Black people who live there, The Sacramento Bee reports.

The nine-member team, was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers, and created by a 2020 law written by Secretary of State Shirley Weber, will spend two years researching and gathering information on criteria that fed into the institutionalization of racism. Those criteria include sharecropping, inequalities in education, housing segregation and eminent domain, and unequal treatment in the criminal justice system.

Once their work is complete, the task force will publish its findings and issue recommendations.

At the beginning of the first task force meeting on Tuesday (June 1), Weber asked the members not just to consider if there was harm done to Black Californians, but to measure the historical extent of the harm and what it would take to compensate them.

California became a state in 1850, supposedly “free,” but enslaved Black people were brought to the land by prospectors seeking gold. The state’s 1852 Fugitive Slave Law, buttressed by pro-slavery politicians, decreed that anyone brought to the state as a slave prior to statehood was legally the property of that slaveholder. Black people were carried into slavery in California until the law expired in 1855.

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“What does it feel like to live in a country that never says, ‘I’m sorry,’? What does it feel like to be in a country where you are continually abused, misused, ignored, and no one ever stops and says, ‘Gee, we were wrong?’” said Weber, according to the Bee. “What does it feel like for folks not to try to repair the damage done to you? How does it feel to live in a place where you feel you may never actually get your justice, your due, your support, your respect?”

Los Angeles attorney Kamilah V. Moore will chair the task force and San Francisco NAACP president Dr. Amos Brown will be vice-chair. A group of attorneys, civil rights activists and other community and religious leaders along with state and local officials will round out the group.

California’s Racial Justice Bureau, a newly formed entity by the state’s Justice Department, will provide legal and technical aid. Attorney General Rob Bonta said the task force members are charged with dismantling the systems that led to inequality for Black people.

“You are charged with helping California acknowledge that,” Bonta said. “This task force is the first step, but a step we should all be proud of.”

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