By Keyshawn Davis | Special To The OBSERVER
Now that the California’s Reparations Task Force has released its 1,100-page final report – the first document of its kind in American history – the hard work of figuring out how to make reparations a reality for thousands of Californians lies ahead.
The report has more than 100 recommendations to address different atrocities and disparities that African Americans have faced for generations in the state. It also offers recommendations on how California can formally apologize for the atrocities outlined in the final report.
No set dollar amount on how much African Americans will receive is given in the final report, but there are recommendations on the dollar amount some will receive to compensate for different atrocities.
A few findings from the report:
The task force voted to recommend that reparations be based on lineage determined by proof of a person’s descent from a Black enslaved person or from a free Black person living in the United States before the end of the 19th century.
It is up to the Legislature to define the scope of eligibility for payment of claims. In chapter 17, the task force defines compensation to include two forms: cumulative compensation for the eligible class and compensation for individuals who can prove harms.
Model For Calculating Compensation
The task force calculated collective compensation for specific atrocities including: harm to a person’s health; the unequal impact of the war on drugs; mass incarceration and overpolicing of African Americans; housing discrimination; unjust property seizures by eminent domain; and the devaluation of Black businesses.
Total estimated losses experienced by African Americans is an initial assessment, according to the report. The report says the Legislature may want to consider enacting an initial down payment, followed by additional payments as new evidence becomes available.
Health harms: The first atrocity documented in the initial report, health harms, measures the impact of discriminatory health policies and practices by examining the difference in life expectancy between Black non-Hispanics and white non-Hispanics in California. Annual compensation would be $13,619 annually for each year an eligible individual has resided or did reside in California up to 2020. For example, a person born in 1980 who has lived continuously in the state could receive $544,760 (40 x $13,619).
War on drugs: The report states eligible parties who lived in California between 1971 and 2020 should be compensated for lost quality of life due to racial profiling and law enforcement bias. The task force calculated monetary loss per recipient at $2,352 in 2020 dollars for each year of residency in that time frame, for a maximum award of $115,248.
California American Freedman Affairs Agency
The task force’s first recommendation is the creation of a California American Freedmen Affairs Agency, a fully funded independent body dedicated to advancing all of the task force’s recommendations. The agency’s mission would support the statutes approved by the Legislature and the governor in response to the report.
Among its functions and services, the agency would provide a genealogy office to support potential reparations claimants, a community support office to improve accessibility and transparency, and a business affairs office.
The agency also would be tasked with providing oversight and monitoring direct implementation of recommendations already within its existing authority, according to the report.
A Formal Apology From The State
The task force recommends that the Legislature formally apologize on behalf of itself and the state for the harms to African Americans detailed in the report.
“And for the atrocities committed by California state actors who promoted, facilitated, enforced, and permitted the institution of chattel slavery and its legacy of ongoing badges and incidents of slavery that form the systemic structures of discrimination. California – its executive, judicial, and legislative branches – denied African Americans their fundamental liberties and denied their humanity throughout the state’s history, from before the Civil War to the present,” the report states.
Educating The Public
The task force has recommended appropriate ways to educate the public on its findings. It also recommends that the Legislature fund the implementation of age-appropriate reparations curricula across all grade levels, according to the report.
The report goes to the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom and they will decide how the state would pay for it and identify qualified recipients.