Posted by 02 October 2020
This week, California became the first state to establish a task force to study the issue of reparations for slavery.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that sets up a nine-member task force that will study ways that reparations could be paid and who should benefit from them. The task force's members will be appointed by legislators and the governor.
When California was admitted to the Union in 1850, its constitution banned slavery. However, some Southerners had brought slaves to the state prior to that and were still legally able to hold them. Supporters of the reparations task force say it is time that the state reckon with slavery in its past how the state perpetuated racial discrimination.
The task force will study the issue of California's slaveholding legacy and racial discrimination laws, then examine ways that reparations could be paid to those affected by these historical actions. It would also consider who should receive reparations. The issue of what the reparations should be, from a cash payment to other assistance, will also be discussed.
Backers of this legislation say that it is necessary for the state to address the wrongs of the past that have led to the current situation of African Americans. They argue that the wealth gap is a legacy of past discrimination, so the state should act to fix it. While acknowledging that California was not a slave state, these supporters say that this task force should prove to be a model for other states or even the federal government.
Critics of the measure push back against these claims. They argue that given California's status as a free state, this is an example of lawmakers pushing an abstract notion of "social justice" that is divorced from reality. They say that if reparations are to be paid, it should come from a national effort. Many also oppose the idea of reparations, arguing that slavery was abolished long ago.
Do you support the idea of paying reparations for slavery?