California Launches Task Force to Consider Reparations for Slavery
CA Gov. Gavin Newsom signed bill into law to study proposals
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a new bill into law on Wednesday to launch a task force assigned with studying and considering proposals for slavery reparations for African Americans.
The new legislation, authored by Democrat Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, will establish a nine-member state task force to study slavery and examine the potential avenues for reparations.
"As a nation, we can only truly thrive when every one of us has the opportunity to thrive," Newsom said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
"Our painful history of slavery has evolved into structural racism and bias built into and permeating throughout our democratic and economic institutions."
"California’s rich diversity is our greatest asset, and we won’t turn away from this moment to make right the discrimination and disadvantages that black Californians and people of color still face," the governor added.
"While there is still so much work to do to unravel this legacy, these pieces of legislation are important steps in the right direction to building a more inclusive and equitable future for all."
In addition, the group can recommend to the state Legislature how California can offer a formal apology "for the perpetration of gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity on African slaves and their descendants" and the elimination of state laws that disproportionately impact black people.
“California has come to terms with many of its issues, but it has yet to come to terms with its role in slavery,” Assemblywoman Weber said.
“We’re talking about really addressing the issues of justice and fairness in this country that we have to address.”
The group will study the lingering effects of slavery to include how it benefited public and private institutions and may have contributed to racial disparities in incarceration, unemployment, wealth, housing, health care, and education.
The bill said 4 million African Americans and their descendants were enslaved in the United States from 1619 to 1865.
The late Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced slavery reparations legislation in the House each session for nearly three decades with no action taken.
In 2019, Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX) introduced a bill to establish a commission to study and develop reparations proposals.
“Advancing this cause where it’s not just a question on a questionnaire for a candidate running for office but actually taking shape here, that’s a meaningful moment,” Newsom said before signing the bill.
“This conversation is so long overdue.”
He noted the law had bipartisan support.
He will appoint five of the task force members while the rest will be appointed by state lawmakers.
The first meeting will occur no later than June 1, 2021.