Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

California Moves To Consider Reparations For Slavery

In this June 11, 2020, file photo, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, ...

Photo by Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Above: In this June 11, 2020, file photo, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, wears a face mask as she calls on lawmakers to create a task force to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans, during the Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif.

California lawmakers are setting up a task force to study and make recommendations for reparations to African Americans, particularly the descendants of slaves, as the nation struggles again with civil rights and unrest following the latest shooting of a Black man by police.

The state Senate supported creating the nine-member commission on a bipartisan 33-3 vote Saturday. The measure returns to the Assembly for a final vote before lawmakers adjourn for the year on Monday, though Assembly members overwhelmingly already approved an earlier version of the bill.

“Let's be clear: Chattel slavery, both in California and across our nation, birthed a legacy of racial harm and inequity that continues to impact the conditions of Black life in California,” said Democratic Sen. Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles.

She cited disproportionate homelessness, unemployment, involvement in the criminal justice system, lower academic performance and higher health risks during the coronavirus pandemic.

Although California before the Civil War was officially a free state, Mitchell listed legal and judicial steps state officials took at the time to support slavery in Southern states while repressing Blacks.

The legislation would require the task force to conduct a detailed study of the impact of slavery in California and recommend to the Legislature by July 2023 the form of compensation that should be awarded, how it should be awarded, and who should be should be eligible for compensation.

The panel, which would start meeting no later than June 2021, could also recommend other forms of rehabilitation or redress.

In the last two years, Texas, New York, and Vermont have considered similar legislation, according to a legislative analysis. It said reparations could take the form of cash, housing assistance, lower tuition, forgiving student loans, job training or community investments, for instance.

Sen. Steven Bradford, a Democrat from Gardena who supported the bill, said he only wished it was more than a study.

He noted that Friday marked the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington and The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“If the 40 acres and a mule that was promised to free slaves were delivered to the descendants of those slaves today, we would all be billionaires,” Bradford said. “I hear far too many people say, ‘Well, I didn’t own slaves, that was so long ago.' Well, you inherit wealth — you can inherit the debt that you owe to African-Americans."

FEATURED PODCAST

San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.