On Saturday, activists demanded the state of California pay reparations of millions of dollars per Black resident as a means to atone for slavery and discrimination. They dismissed the mammoth reparations proposals of California’s reparations task force as being too little too late.
The demands were made during a very explosive meeting of the Task Force, which was formed by a state law signed by the Democratic Governor. Gavin Newsom in 2020. The committee is currently hearing public comments as it prepares to make final recommendations for the California Legislature. They will decide whether or not to implement these measures and then send them directly to Newsom to sign into law.
One of the most outspoken speakers at the event was Reverend Tony Pierce, who made reference to the famous promise that former slaves were given to receive “40 acres and one mule”.
You know that you should have used the same numbers as what an acre meant back then. OK, we were given forty acres. We were given forty acres. You already know the number. “You keep talking about now but you do research and say nothing about slavery,” said Pierce. “So the equivocal figure from 1860 for 40 acres up to today is 200 million dollars for every African-American.”
Pierce, who shouted the majority of his remarks directed his anger at the task force, for not promoting an ambitious enough plan of reparations, in his opinion.
He said, “You shouldn’t be afraid.” You’re supposed to be honest. You are not meant to be gatekeepers. “You’re supposed to say what people want, and listen to the people.”
Pierce ended his speech by warning California’s highest elected official, “Tell Governor Newsom that we are coming.” He knows me.”
In a preliminary estimate made in March, economists estimated that California’s reparations program could cost more than $800 Billion. The task force, who consulted five policy experts and economists to come up with the figure, stated at the time that it did not include compensation for property taken unfairly by the group or devaluation of Black-owned businesses.
California’s annual budget is approximately $300 billion.
The task force released its latest proposals earlier this week. They don’t include a price tag but rather outline how California could calculate the amount of money Black residents in California have lost due to discrimination since 1850 when the state was founded.
The report indicates dollar amounts lost due to specific forms of racial bias, and that these amounts should be returned to Black residents.
The estimates include, among others, the loss of $2,352 for each person in California per year due to over-policing Black communities. They also include $3,366 for each person per residence per year for “discriminatory loans and zoning,” as well as $13,619 for each person per residence per year for “injustices and racism in health.” And $77,000 for Black-owned businesses and their devaluation.
In its latest document, the task force urges that Black Californians who are eligible receive “down payments” in cash as soon as they can while waiting to calculate the total amount of money lost due to racism and the slave trade.
A Black person who lived in California their entire life and has reached the age of 71 could receive restitution totaling more than $1.2 Million.
Activists who spoke at the meeting said that such ideas do not pay Black Californians what they are entitled to.
“$ 1.2 million is not enough.” One woman said that it should start at at least $5,000,000 like San Francisco. “We want direct cash payment just like the way stimulus [checks] was sent out.” “We can manage it because it’s our inheritance.”
San Francisco, California is currently evaluating its own reparations plans at the local level. One proposal would be to give $5 million to each Black resident who qualifies.
Other attendees at the meeting also dismissed the current plan of the task force as inadequate. One speaker suggested that the task force issue $5 million as reparations, just like San Francisco.
She said: “This million dollar amount we hear on the news, is inadequate. It is also an injustice to continue slavery and injustice for Black Americans over 400 years.” “To throw even a million dollars at us is an injustice.”
It’s not clear how California could afford to pay millions to every eligible Black resident, no matter what the final numbers are. Newsom said in January that California faces a projected deficit of $22.5 Billion for the next fiscal year. California Legislative Analyst’s Office (a government agency that analyzes budgets for the state legislature) estimated weeks later that Newsom’s estimate was off by $7 billion.
Leaders of the task force have stated that they expect legislators to provide actual amounts for reparations. California Justice Department officials claim that the law establishing the task force does not require the committee to identify funding.
Critics argue that reparations proposals cannot be implemented in California because slavery was never legalized there.
The Black community has been devastated by racial injustice in the state, causing it to lose untold sums of money.
The task force proposes more than just dollars and cents. It also suggests several policy changes that will combat racial injustice and have California issue an official apology for slavery and anti-Black racism. This formal apology would be signed by both the Governor and the California legislature.
According to the report of the task force, the reparations program will be overseen and administered by a newly created state agency. This agency would determine who is eligible for funds and how they are distributed.
The majority of people who spoke on Saturday were in favor of reparations. Arguments broke out despite the overwhelming support for reparations. Many attendees interrupted and spoke out of turn, which led Kamilah Moore (the task force chair) to repeatedly request security to remove individuals.
In several cases, activists got into loud shouting matches in the room, which forced the meeting to stop to calm down.
The task force for reparations is scheduled to vote on the latest recommendations it has made on Saturday evening. The state legislature must receive a final report containing the panel’s recommendations by July 1.