A Resolution To Explore Reparations Heads To California Senate
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / September 9, 2019
California is taking the first steps in discussing ways to give descendants of enslaved people reparations. Assembly Concurrent Resolution 130 calls on lawmakers to research what reparations would look like here and how best to fix inequity.
Speaker 1: 00:00 California is taking the first steps in discussing ways to give descendants of enslaved people, reparations, ACR one 30 heads to the state Senate today. After passing the assembly, the resolution calls on lawmakers to research what reparations would look like here in California and how best to fix inequity assembly woman Shirley Weber authored the resolution and joins me to talk about it. Assembly member Weber, welcome.
Speaker 2: 00:25 Well, it's good to be here. Thank you very much for the invitation.
Speaker 1: 00:27 If you could remind us what this resolution will do.
Speaker 2: 00:30 Well, the resolution basically calls for California to begin to look at ways in which it can begin to address the issues of reparation in California. We've had research done that has not come forward and that there have been recommendations from, uh, obviously from different individuals concerning a California's bowl enslavery sort of acknowledgement that we played some role because oftentimes we don't think we have. And we played some role in the legislation and the laws and the, the things that took place that had a tendency to reinforce slavery in the United States and allows California to have over 2000 slaves when it became a state because of the laws that he's had written. So it calls upon us to acknowledge that, to recognize the fact that African Americans have contributed to the life of the United States, but also the life of California. And to ask us to begin the process of seeing what those recommendations are as how we can begin to have a conversation about reparations.
Speaker 1: 01:28 And what inspired you to bring this before lawmakers?
Speaker 2: 01:33 Well, a couple of things. One, this is the 400th anniversary of the first Africans who came to these shores, uh, in the Kayla, you before the Mayflower. So they came in 16, 19. And so there's been much, uh, celebration around the nation concerning 16, 19. So this was a part of the 16, 19 conversation that, uh, we wanted the, um, uh, the floor to celebrate the fact that African-Americans had been in a Cedric for 400 years and had contributed to the growth and the life of California as well as the nation. And then at the same time. But what does it draw attention to the fact that despite having been here for those 400 years in the United States and being in California for a couple of hundred years, there had not been really, uh, any addressing of the, the damage that slavery had done. And that we often think of slavery as east coast and everybody's raising these issues of reparations that African Americans have raised, but number of views and other groups have raised and gotten reparations and where the one group that has not, uh, so bringing those issues forward and making sure that California recognizes that it had a role in slavery despite the fact that it was not fully a slave state.
Speaker 1: 02:39 What type of legislation do you think will follow this resolution?
Speaker 2: 02:43 Well, what would have happened is obviously to form a commission to began to look at the work that has been done and to, uh, and then have that permission to report back to the legislature about what recommendations they would have based on the information that we're going to get from various that have already done the research. Some of them have done it and have yet to report to us exactly what the outcomes were and what the recommendations would be to begin to address the inequities that African Americans have in California.
Speaker 1: 03:11 And so what do reparations look like to you? Uh, in the state of California?
Speaker 2: 03:16 Well, you know, different individuals have different perspectives on what for reparation should do. What we've done in the past, and this is that, you know, whether it's the Japanese or whether it's Jewish community more recently, uh, people have asked for additional resources or the returning of their property or whatever it may be that they're, you know, that as an educator, when I look at reparations, I think about how can you help a community that often has locked out of access to resources, getting those resources like everyone else. And I think education, I think about education. I think about whether or not we want to make sure that the African American kids are well educated. We want to make sure that if they apply and get in and qualify for the universities they get into California universities. A reparations could mean anything. Reparations could mean that African-Americans qualify for University of California paid no tuition and no fees until that group reached parody with other booths in the state.
Speaker 2: 04:10 You know, there are a lot of things that can happen. I think people focus only on money. Uh, I look at other things that, that are much more sustainable and longterm and can actually move that, uh, the population forward. And for me, obviously education is important, but others may think of the businesses and, and the building wealth in that way. And that comes with education as well. So, but the t pieces that we have never really had a conversation in California about California's bones, like how California benefited. Uh, there was even efforts, uh, research done in the insurance industry. Uh, and we're calling up on that to bring that board in terms of how California benefited from insuring slaves, uh, throughout the nation. And so we're looking at ways in which California benefited from slavery. And when we look at the chronic conditions of African Americans in the United States and in California as well, that you have high levels of poverty, you have a low level of engagement in at our higher ed institutions, and you'd have a high level of incarceration.
Speaker 2: 05:09 So, uh, as a result, what are the, what is, what is the impact that this long history we've had but impact has on all of those kind of negative conditions. And then how, what do we do as a state to acknowledge it, not just to apologize cause we get lots of apologies, but really to do something that's more than apologies, it's really began to address these ongoing chronic issues that don't seem to go away because of having, um, basically having a, a start that was a start that never allowed African-Americans to really, uh, engage and participate in the economic life and the educational life. Uh, we get some folks who are successful out, you know, I can't complain about it myself, but we also know that, um, that basically, uh, there's a, is a difficult start and it's not reinforced. When we began to look at what benefits might exist in terms of the African American community to help it to grow and to become competitive with other communities in California.
Speaker 1: 06:05 What type of challenges do you foresee in terms of getting reparations in California?
Speaker 2: 06:10 Well, I think challenges we would face is, is one of, you know, who really deserves it, who really gets it. People are talking about those who are descendants of slaves in the United States and those are the ones who should oftentimes those who come from other places, other countries come into the United States come with an advantage of being, having come from somewhere else with different kinds of resources that are Africans that are African or from some of the islands and that the realities are very different. So the questions would be identifying those who are truly the ones who should benefit from it, from reparations and then figuring out what reparations look like. Uh, like I said, some folks talk about giving some money, others talk about some system changes and some things that we can basically measure that there is a sense of progress as yourself.
Speaker 2: 06:57 I think if it is done and done well, it would not just everybody gets $5,000. I mean, it would not be something like that. Uh, that would probably do very little to total the wealth gap and a whole lot of other things that exist in, in, in the United States. So I think a thorough examination, um, uh, could be a very instructive and it will be difficult because think about, um, basically providing some level of reparations for a group that people have never felt deserved. And that's, you know, that with all the different groups that have gotten reparations in this country, Africans have not even, uh, early in at the end of slavery, there was going to be 48% of, you know, we can only imagine what would've happened if black families, when slavery had been given 40 acres, what that would be well worth today, you know, but they never got 40 acres and a mule to start a new life. And, um, and that has been the poverty piece that has existed over and over again. And then we still see the impact, though.
Speaker 1: 07:56 I been speaking with assembly woman, Shirley Webber, Dr Webber, thank you so much for joining us.
Speaker 2: 08:01 Thank you for the invitation. Have a good day.