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California To Study Reparations For Black Americans

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California will develop a detailed plan for granting reparations to Black Americans under a new law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Wednesday.

Speaker 1: 00:00 California has become the first state in the nation to begin a formal study on reparations to African Americans impacted by slavery. The bill authored by San Diego assembly woman, Shirley Weber was signed into law by governor Newsome on Wednesday. It creates a task force to study. What kind of reparations may be appropriate for the state to offer descendants of enslaved people. And those who've suffered the effects of slavery supporters. Say it is a first step toward addressing the economic and social inequities that have played African American families and communities for generations. Joining me is San Diego state assembly woman, Shirley Weber, and dr. Weber, welcome to the program.

Speaker 2: 00:43 Thank you. It's always a pleasure to be here with you.

Speaker 1: 00:46 Can you tell us how this task force will be assembled and how it will go about its work?

Speaker 2: 00:52 Well, you know, there'll be nine members on the task force and it's a state task force. And so the governor has direct involvement with it. We all, and we'll be engaged in it. So the governor has a certain number of persons he'll be appointing. I think he has five and the, um, uh, the speaker of the house has two. And so does the, uh, the president protein we'll have to, uh, there's some specific specifications in terms of what kinds of folks we want in terms of those who had some experience and some research background, those who believe in reparations, those in other words, so it's not a committee to fight amongst itself about did slavery exist or not exist? It's really a task force to look at the impact that it has had and what they possibly be. Some of the things we need to do to improve the situation for African Americans in California.

Speaker 1: 01:42 There are many people who may be confused about why this reparations taskforce has happening here in California since it was never a slave state in the 19th century. Can you explain

Speaker 2: 01:55 Well, sure. Uh, and it's, and it's interesting those, if you get, if those who can get a chance to really read the analysis of the bill, uh, it's a, it's a beautiful analysis done by the staff at, at, uh, at the Capitol because it really Chronicles the engagement and the involvement of Californians in the slave trade. Um, we didn't have, we weren't officially a slave state as such yet. We allowed slavery to exist here. We allow people to bring their slaves here. We allowed them to ensure their slaves. So our insurance companies made tremendous amount of money on that. Uh, we also, um, uh, if a person came to California as a free state, uh, they had been enslaved. They were sent back to where they came from. And so they were allowed for a slave catchers to come and get people in California, take them back into slavery.

Speaker 2: 02:39 So California participated in it. And then as a result of that, once we did become a state and slave slavery ended, we continued to participate in things like red lining. We had laws in California that would not allow a black person to speak in court against a white person. Um, we had, uh, we had some definitely limitations in terms of where people could. Um, we, so there were a lot of, um, laws against African Americans. In fact, our first governor wanted to create a law that would basically, uh, ban all black people from California, whether they were enslaved or been enslaved or not that he wanted to get rid of all African Americans in California. And so these things are public record

Speaker 1: 03:19 Taskforce, be authorized to study issues such as school segregation and housing discrimination that happened well after slavery.

Speaker 2: 03:27 It will, it will be empowered to look at the impact of slavery on that, because even though, you know, slavery supposedly ended, we still had all of these things that continued afterwards, and then they impacted other things in people's lives. And so, yes, the fact that we had at school segregated, uh, we had housing segregation in California. Uh, we have a Lord, we at one point at lower funding of schools for kids who were pulling African-American in different areas. So we have to look at the impact because it's not just, okay, now you're free. You can go. But if you continue with the kind of negative things that are there, the educational piece, the lack of, of, uh, opportunities to enter certain, uh, businesses, the inability to basically own businesses and the kind of laws that were put in place to prevent African-Americans from buying property in certain sections of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Speaker 2: 04:13 So there were a lot of things that basically hindered the economic development, but also that hindered the academic development and the psychological impact that had on, on individuals in terms of what they thought were their options and opportunities and so forth. And it's really interesting cause most folks don't think of California as a slave state. So when you think, Oh my God, you guys are the farthest away from slavery, but nonetheless slavery had its impact across the nation and in all of our laws. And so it will be interesting because if California can, can do this study and realize that there was an impact as this far away from the East coast to the West coast, you can only imagine also the impact that it had in those areas where there are slave, where there was slavery and where the work truly monuments are resurrected, uh, in, in, in, um, in honor of that particular, uh, negative aspect of our history. So we say this is a unique opportunity to help the rest of the nation began to grapple with the issue of racism and slavery and the impact that it still has on the academic and educational achievement of African Americans. And began to talk about repairing that.

Speaker 1: 05:17 What kind of reparations do you think might be appropriate for California to offer?

Speaker 2: 05:22 Well, this is one of the things that, that the, um, hopefully the commission will grapple with, uh, in terms of, of what would really have an impact. You know, some people say, Oh, it doesn't mean everybody gets $20,000. Well, after 4,400 years of, of degradation, enslavement and opportunities lost and so forth and so on, is that the answer, you know, um, I'm an educator. So naturally, you know, of me, top of the list is education. So, you know, everybody kind of knows that about me, but that may not be the only thing that people need to look at. We may need to look at how, uh, people lost homes. So maybe many of the, uh, program, but talk about home ownership because clearly home is the first step into wealth in California. Most of folks who have all their wealth is built into their home.

Speaker 2: 06:03 Uh, if you don't own property, you can't amass equity. And therefore sometimes the issues of loans or grants, or even financing your kids' education or whatever it may be is not available to you because home ownership is so low in some communities. And we see how oftentimes different standards that applied, whether it was in Chicago or whether it's in LA or wherever it was to African-Americans with regards to trying to get home ownership and the difficulty that's there. Maybe we need something to begin to talk about repairing that, and basically encouraging in some way home ownership among African Americans. So, um, so there are a lot of things that people can think about. I mean, we, we, we have a tremendous opportunity, uh, because California is the fifth largest economy in the world. And, uh, and we have the ability and imagination to basically, uh, talk about it. We have the research institutions who can help us immensely when the taskforce is ready to make its recommendations. Do those recommendations have to be approved by the legislature. The recommendations will be done in a report, uh, probably accepted by the legislature and governor. Uh, and then the recommendations can be dealt with individually. Like any other report that comes out. I have been speaking with San Diego state assembly woman, Shirley Webber. And thank you so much. I appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity. I'm excited about what we will discover.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.