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Reparation: California’s Blacks to receive $1.2 million payments

Economists who are advising California‘s task force for reparations have estimated that it will cost $1.2 million per Black resident, which can be distributed over a lifetime although the details have not been finalized yet.

California is one of the several states that are discussing the feasibility of providing economic reparations to Black Americans whose ancestors were harmed by the Atlantic slave trade and its aftermath, despite the fact that California was designated as a free state when it joined the Union.

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The movement for reparations gained significant momentum in 2020 after George Floyd’s death at the hands of police, but it is still a controversial issue both economically and culturally. California, known for its progressive policies, has recently arrived at an economic evaluation.

“Economists advising California’s task force on reparations have, at long last, released an estimate of the damages caused by the state’s history of slavery and its many vestiges of white supremacy: up to $1.2 million per Black resident over a lifetime,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday. 

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Reparations meeting
Reverend Tony Pierce calls for more than $5 million in reparations for each Black Californian at a meeting of the California Reparations Task Force on March 29, 2023. (YouTube screenshot from California Department of Justice channel)


California’s reparations task force is preparing to recommend that the Golden State apologize and issue “down payments” to Black residents as a way to make amends for slavery and discrimination, although the state explicitly outlawed slavery when it joined the Union in 1850.

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The task force, created by state legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020, on Monday published more than 500 pages of documents that indicate it plans to recommend California issue a formal apology for slavery and racism and consider payments of varying amounts to eligible Black Californians.

The Chronicle suggested this massive number was merely a “rough, partial estimate of what it would cost the state to compensate Black people for that legacy of harm, according to a draft of the task force’s final report.” 

The paper quoted the report directly.

“Rather, it is an economically conservative initial assessment of what losses, at a minimum, the State of California caused or could have prevented, but did not,” the report stated. “(T)he Legislature would then have to decide how to translate loss-estimates into proposed reparations amounts.”

The Chronicle added further that the process is still ongoing.

“The panel is preparing its final report to send to the Legislature, which will include a recommendation on the amount and form of cash payments,” the outlet wrote. “Task force members are expected to vote Saturday at Mills College in Oakland on whether to adopt the draft report, the capstone of its work after two years of tense meetings and in-depth research.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom signs into law a bill that establishes a task force to come up with recommendations on how to give reparations to black Americans in Sacramento California on Sept. 30 2020
Gov. Gavin Newsom signs into law a bill that establishes a task force to come up with recommendations on how to give reparations to black Americans in Sacramento, California, on Sept. 30, 2020. (Office of the Governor via AP)

The Chronicle observed that next task at hand would be figuring out the massive economic implications of this reparations program.

‘Whatever the task force decides, the Legislature and Newsom will have the final say. If reparations are approved, state officials would have to figure out how to pay for the program,” the outlet wrote. “An economist for the reparations panel has said the plan could cost California more than $800 billion; the state has a roughly $297 billion annual budget.”

Despite being nearly three times the state’s overall budget, a member of the task force in April dismissed concerns about the total cost, saying it was as the “least important piece” of their proposal.

“It’s important,” she said, “but it’s the least important in terms of being able to get to a point in our country’s history and in California’s history where we recognize that the harm cuts across multiple areas and domains and that the repair needs to align with that.”

The Chronicle noted that one key aspect is that the program does not distribute reparations merely for slavery, but for other economic and cultural issues seen as the legacy of slavery itself such as “mass incarceration and over-policing in Black communities,” “discrimination in housing,” and “health harms, including unequal access to health care, greater exposure to environmental pollution and discrimination from medical workers.”

In April, Detroit’s reparations task force met. Kofi Kenyatta, a senior policy director of UpTogether told the task force: “Reparations can mean a lot of things but it must include, no strings attached, direct cash to Black people and systemic change throughout all levels.” 

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