Reparations task force proposing a ‘down payment’ due to possibly ‘lengthy’ disbursement process

As the California Reparations Task Force advanced toward final recommendations, their latest report called for distributing “substantial” handouts in advance of calculating “losses.”

With a July 1 deadline drawing nearer for the task force to submit its report to the California legislature, that black residents will be getting some form of payment from their state would appear to be a foregone conclusion. In the meantime, with estimates suggesting a final sum close to $800 billion, members have proposed a “down payment” to ameliorate the situation.

Ahead of Saturday’s meeting at Mills College at Northeastern University in Oakland to vote on the proposals that included recommendations on cashless bail, the task force released more than 500 pages of documents outlining plans to calculate what eligible black Californians are due.

“Given that the process of calculating the amount of some of the losses and determining the methods and structure for issuing payments could involve a lengthy process, the task force further recommends that the legislature make a ‘down payment’ with an immediate disbursement of a meaningful amount of funds to each member of the eligible class,” it read.

These payments were described as “substantial” and “the beginning of a conversation about redressing the economic and societal harm of historical injustices, not the end of it.”

Some estimates proposed per person, per year included $2,352 to make up for supposed losses caused by alleged over-policing and $3,366 related to “discriminatory lending and zoning.” Another figure presented was $13,619 for “injustices and discrimination in health” alongside $77,000 for black-owned business losses.

Previous reports on the task force, assembled under the direction of Gov. Gavin Newsom in September 2020, determined that eligible residents may receive no less than $223,000 should the legislature advance the recommendations and, with an annual budget of $300 billion, the state would invariably have to raise taxes to fund such a plan.

On top of the proposed handouts and measures, which if agreed upon Saturday will move into the final report, the task force also pressed for the state of California to issue a formal apology to black residents.

The report stated in part, “Reparative apologies situate the harms of the past in society’s present injustices, pay tribute to victims, and encourage communal reflection to ensure the historic wrongs are never forgotten and never repeated.”

“Apologies alone are inadequate to provide justice to victims or redress wrongs,” it later noted. “But when combined with material forms of reparations, apologies provide an opportunity for communal reckoning with the past and repair for moral, physical, and dignitary harms. An effective apology should both acknowledge and express regret for what was done to victims and their relatives and take responsibility for the culpability of the apologizing party.”

Oft noted, slavery was never even legal in California. That fact hasn’t stopped individual cities within the Golden State from working out their own plans for reparations at the local level, including in San Francisco where a proposed $5 million payout would be handed over to those eligible. Eligibility was based on California residency and did not require a recipient’s ancestors to have been slaves.


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Kevin Haggerty


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