California lawmakers contemplate reparations for slavery

Cash, housing assistance, lower tuition, forgiving student loans, job training or community investments are a few examples of reparation.

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In a 33-3 vote, the California Senate passed a bill that would create a 9 member task force to conduct research into slavery and develop a plan to give reparations for Black Americans in the state. The bill will soon head to the California Assembly where it will have to pass a final vote before the task force can begin planning.

While California was a “free state” before the Civil War, many lawmakers believe it to be set up in a way that supports a racial caste system in which the effects of slavery continue to hurt Black Americans today.

“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,” Sen. Holley Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, said.

According to Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization, “Black Americans are the only group that has not received reparations for state-sanctioned racial discrimination, while slavery afforded some white families the ability to accrue tremendous wealth.” With the value of enslaved Black Americans at more than $3 billion in 1860, “slavery enriched white slave owners and their descendants, and it fueled the country’s economy while suppressing wealth building for the enslaved,” Brookings Institution reported.

Therefore, a majority of the Assembly is expected to support the AB3121 bill.

The bill 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 Mercury News reported.

Cash, housing assistance, lower tuition, forgiving student loans, job training or community investments are a few examples of reparation.

If the bill is passed, the task force will begin meeting by June 2021.

California now joins Texas, New York, and Vermont who have also considered similar legislation, according to a legislative analysis.

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