"California has been mean to Black people": State reparations task force inches closer to final report
SACRAMENTO – The countdown is on as the state's reparations task force examines the harms of slavery and systemic racism. A final report is due by July.
It is undoubtedly a touchy subject.
"California has been mean to Black people," said Dr. Amos C. Brown, lead pastor of Third Baptist Church.
Dr. Brown is one of nine members on the committee. His hope is the nation acknowledges the past.
"That this nation ultimately — before us immediately— that as a state and a city would make amends and correct the wrongs that were perpetrated against Black people," he said.
Seeing eye-to-eye has not always happened during public meetings. In 2022, the first-in-the-nation panel restricted restitution to descendants of Black people in the U.S. before the end of the 19th century, freed or enslaved.
While compensation talks grab headlines, a nearly-500-page interim report goes beyond money.
"The rules, the legislation, the policies, the procedures — everything that kept us back all those years is still prevalent today," said Assemblymember Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr. of the 57th Assembly District, who also is a task force member.
Though California entered the union as a free state, it has not always been a fair state. Even in 2023, critics say there are still remnants of slavery written into the state constitution.
From housing to healthcare to political disenfranchisement and stolen property, the panel tackles policies and laws. As the committee holds public meetings throughout the state, the clock is ticking ahead of its deadline.
Yet, is atonement possible after centuries of mistreatment?
"Yes, you can make atonement," Dr. Brown said. "You took things from us. You insulted our dignity."
Meanwhile, members believe what they accomplish in the Golden State could be used as a template elsewhere.
"It should be used by every state, every municipality, and hopefully, if there's a national reparations effort moving forward, they'll go back to California," Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer, Sr., said.
The next public meeting for the reparations task force is in March in Sacramento.
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