CA report how gov’t harmed Black Americans

A panel in California considering reparations for Black Americans released its first report Wednesday detailing the “innumerable” harms of slavery in the state that “have snowballed over generations.”

In a 500-page interim report, the California Reparations Task Force detailed California’s involvement in slavery and how it continues to negatively impact Black Americans. The nine-member panel is the first of its kind in any state. Advocates have been pushing lawmakers to replicate it at the federal level.

Chairperson Kamilah Moore said the report is the most extensive issued by the government on the African American community in more than 50 years.

“Thus, it is my hope that people in California and across the United States utilize this report as an educational and organizing tool, as this interim report exceeds expectations in substantiating the claim for reparations for the African American/American Freedmen community on the municipal, state and federal level,” Moore said in a statement.

The document outlines how Black Americans have been harmed, including by slavery and political disenfranchisement, and in labor, housing, education, the criminal justice system, and arts and culture. The panel included preliminary recommendations for each category but said a final report will be issued next year.

Kamilah Moore, chair of the task force, and the Rev. Amos C. Brown, vice chair, had hearings in the last year.

“After the War of Independence, the American government continued to pass laws to maintain this false racial hierarchy which treated all Black people as less than human,” the report states.

The task force calls for a state office to process reparations claims and “identify and mitigate the ways that current and previous policies have damaged and destabilized Black families;” to restore historical sites; to support education; and to offer free legal aid and other services.

Other recommendations include updating language in the state’s Constitution; removing racial bias and discriminatory practices in standardized testing; compensating people deprived of profits for their work; investing in and creating free healthcare programs; and apologizing for acts of political disenfranchisement.

It is not yet clear how the state will put these recommendations into place.

An estimated 1,500 enslaved African Americans lived in the California in 1852, according to the report. The US Census Bureau says Black Americans make up almost 6.5% of the state’s population.

The state established the panel in 2020 to study slavery as an institution and how it still affects Black Americans. In the past year, the task force has held hearings and discussed how the state should compensate those harmed by slavery, including descendants.

The task force said the interim report focuses on identifying and summarizing “the myriad badges and incidents of slavery” and the group’s work is not finished.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said the report is a historic step and commended the task force “for being a model for partners across the nation.”

“I urge every American to read the task force’s report and join with us in recommitting ourselves to justice,” Bonta said.

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