Panel in California, a Free State Since Birth, Recommends Reparations, Apology for Slavery

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A panel set up by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in 2020 approved recommendations Saturday in Oakland for reparations for slavery and an apology, even though the state entered the Union as a free state in 1850.

The Los Angeles Times reported: California’s Reparations Task Force voted on Saturday to recommend that the state issue a formal apology for slavery and potentially provide billions of dollars in cash payments, moving forward a historic effort to enact remedies and compensation for descendants of African Americans who were enslaved in the U.S. The vote at a public meeting in Oakland marks the beginning of the end of the nine-member panel’s two-year process to craft a report recommending reparations for slavery, which is due to the state Legislature by July 1. The panel argued that California must apologize for slavery because it had racist governors and enforced the federal fugitive slave law, requiring escaped slaves to be returned to their purported owners in the South.

The task force was established under a law passed in the wake of the George Floyd riots and the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. It is made up primarily of black members and not demographically representative of the state’s population. The panel also considered post-slavery discrimination and harms to black people, such as “mass incarceration” under the state’s formerly tough crime laws (which have since been reformed). The panel calculated that each black resident of the state is potentially owed $1.2 million in compensation, based on disparities in life expectancy, and estimates of the cost of over-policing and housing discrimination. It is unclear how the state will afford the staggering cost — which is several times the state budget — after it crashed from a $100 billion surplus last year to more than a $22.5 billion deficit in the coming fiscal year.

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