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California Just Passed A Historic Bill That Clears The Way For Reparations

California Just Passed A Historic Bill That Clears The Way For Reparations

Justice is set in motion!

California has become the first state to pass a law establishing a task force to pave the way for reparation payments for enslaved people's descendants.

The chair of California's Legislative Black Caucus, Democratic Assemblymember Shirley Weber of San Diego, introduced the bill to state legislators in February. Assembly Bill 3121 establishes a nine-person task force to study the impact of slavery on Black people in California and determine who will be eligible to receive compensation.

 

 

"This is an extremely important time for all of us," Weber said Wednesday. "California tries to lead the way in terms of civil rights, and we have a responsibility to do that."

Weber, who moved to California from Arkansas as a child because her family said they found "tremendous opportunity," said that California still has work to acknowledge its history of racial inequality. 

California, founded in 1850, as a free state, yet several laws made considerable concessions for residents who wanted to have enslaved people so long as they lived in California temporarily or trafficked them before statehood. Slavery was abolished nationwide in 1865 by the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"California has come to terms with many of its issues, but it has yet to come to terms with its role in slavery," she said. "After 400 years, we still have the impact…We're talking about really addressing the issues of justice and fairness in this country that we have to address."

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the law Wednesday afternoon. He held a videoconference with lawmakers and other stakeholders, including rapper Ice Cube, to discuss his decision saying, "After watching last night's debate, this signing can't come too soon."

"As a nation, we can only truly thrive when every one of us has the opportunity to thrive," Newsom said in a statement. "Our painful history of slavery has evolved into structural racism and bias built into and permeating throughout our democratic and economic institutions."

Weber wrote the bill last year, February before national protests fighting racial injustice and the beginning of the global pandemic, which exposed disparities in medical access and care in the Black community.

"This is not just because of the circumstances we face. What happened is that, of course, those circumstances reinforced the fact that what we were saying all along was true," Weber said. "Some think we're just responding to the moment, but we're responding to the history of California and the life of Black people in California and in this nation."

 

A similar proposal to study reparations for Black Americans came before Congress in 1989. It never passed, but Congress held a hearing on the proposal last year.

Thank you for taking on this vital initiative, Assemblymember Weber!

Photo Credit: Assemblymember Shirley Weber