California task force launches study of slave reparations for African Americans

Josh Haskell Image
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
EMBED <>More Videos

A first-in-the-nation task force in California to study and recommend reparations for African Americans held its inaugural meeting this week, launching a two-year process to address the harms of slavery and systemic racism.

It's the first of its kind in the country, and it's happening right here in California. A task force met for the very first time this week, setting up lengthy discussions about reparations for African Americans.

The nine-member task force on slave reparations was sworn Tuesday, in making California the first state in the nation to study reparations for African Americans.

"I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors and I am ready to fight to deliver them, our ancestors, justice," said Lisa Holder, a member of the reparations task force.

"Slavery is this country's original sin, a stain on our history and a continued open wound. You are all charged with helping California acknowledge that. Although the horrors of slavery may have begun in the past, its harms are felt every single day by black Americans in the present. Those harms are felt in unequal education and health outcomes. They are felt in the staggering inequality of wealth in this country. They are felt in tragedies like the murder of George Floyd," said California Attorney General Rob Bonta.

MORE | Manhattan Beach confronting racist past symbolized by battle over 'Bruce's Beach'

Critics have said California shouldn't study reparations because the state didn't have slaves, but the author of the bill, Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber, said there is opportunity in California to recognize the past that doesn't exist elsewhere and lead this conversation nationally.

"You're here today to seek an answer, not about was their harm, but your task is to determine the depth of the harm and the ways in which we are to repair that harm," said Weber.

UCLA professor of education Tyrone Howard says the creation of this task force is a big deal. But adds there's no amount of money that can make up for the harm caused by slavery, though other forms of compensation can help those who continue to suffer, begin to heal.

"You cannot act as if black Americans had the same starting place, the same opportunities and advantages as white Americans, because we didn't. Slavery for 250 years gave a huge set of opportunities and advantages that black Americans could not benefit from," said Howard.

Those on the task force say this is about making a better connection from the past to the present, and to those who say slavery happened over 100 years ago, what's the point of reparations? This task force will highlight how the impact of slavery is still felt today.

MORE | Everyday words and phrases that have racist connotations