OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — After more than a year delving into history and studies to make its case for reparations to California descendants of enslaved Black people, a first-in-the-nation task force began deliberations Wednesday to quantify how financial compensation might be calculated and what might be required to prove eligibility.
Conversations for how to determine payments are in the early stages, with task force members acknowledging they have more questions than answers. Economists hired by the task force are seeking guidance in five harms experienced by Black people: government taking of property, devaluation of Black-owned businesses, housing discrimination and homelessness, mass incarceration and over-policing, and health.
California’s task force met Wednesday at City Hall in Oakland, a city that was the birthplace of the Black Panthers but has lost some of its African American population as rising home prices forced people out.
The task force must determine when each harm began and ended and who should be eligible for monetary compensation in those areas. For example, the group could choose to limit cash compensation to people incarcerated between 1970 — when more people started being imprisoned for drug-related crimes — to the present. Or they could choose to compensate everyone who lived in over-policed Black neighborhoods, even if they were not themselves arrested.
The task force has a July 1 deadline to complete its final report for the Legislature listing recommendations for how the state can atone for and address its legacy of discriminatory policies against Black Californians. Lawmakers will need to pass legislation for payments and other policy changes to take place.
Earlier this year, the committee made the controversial decision to limit reparations to descendants of Black people in the United States as of the 19th century, either as freed or enslaved people.
Task force member Monica Montgomery Steppe said Wednesday they need to take more time addressing time frames, payment calculations and residency.
“This is the foundation of all the other recommendations,” she said.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation in 2020 creating the task force, giving hope to reparations advocates who had despaired that anything might happen at the federal level. Since then, reparations efforts have bubbled up in cities, counties and at colleges.