California reparations committee explores historic payments for descendants of slaves

A California reparations committee estimated that black Californians descended from slaves could receive as much as $223,200 for housing discrimination throughout the 20th century. 

The Washington Examiner reports that the nine-member task team, established by Governor Gavin Newsom, calculated that $569 billion would be needed in reparations to cover the costs of compensating the 2.5 million black persons who were negatively impacted by housing discrimination between 1933 and 1977. The group has until June 2023 to make a formal recommendation. Committee member Jovan Scott Lewis said, “We are looking at reparations on a scale that is the largest since Reconstruction.”

To better understand how slavery and discrimination affected black communities economically, the committee made estimates after speaking with black Californians around the state. One instance was in Russell City, near San Francisco, which housed black families escaping oppression in the deep South. However, residents were forced out in the 1960s when the city was destroyed and turned into an industrial park.

Earlier this year, the committee released a 500-page study highlighting four additional areas where compensation for descendants may be given, including mass incarceration, unfair property seizures, devaluation of black enterprises, and healthcare.

Committee members are currently debating how the funds would be distributed, with some advocating cash payments and others advocating grants for housing and education. They are also reportedly working with historians to learn more about prior reparations, such as those made following World War II.

Before submitting its final recommendations to the state legislature in June, the task force will meet once more to discuss the plan further. However, the state legislature must approve the measure before it can be implemented.

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