California Governor Signs First-in-the-Nation Legislation to Create Taskforce to Study Reparations, to Make Recommendations on Reparations for Slavery

11 Oct

As the people of California and the nation confront their history regarding race, California Governor Gavin Newsom, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, signed Assembly Bill 3121, the first in the nation, which will create a nine-member task force to study and make recommendations on slavery and its reparations for descendants of slaves.

The Governor, in part, said, according to a press release, “As a nation…. (o)ur painful history of slavery has evolved into structural racism and bias built into and permeating throughout our democratic and economic institutions.”

Shirley N. Weber, Assemblywoman of 79th District authored A.B. 3121; photo taken from the the Assemblywoman’s website.

The bill was authored by Democrat Assemblywoman Shirley N. Weber, representing the 79th District. Weber, the chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, said, according to the same press release, “California has historically led the country on civil rights, yet we have not come to terms with our state’s ugly past that allowed slaveholding within our borders and returned escaped slaves to their masters.”

Also, according to the California Globe, the Assemblywoman said, “After emancipation, California and local municipalities allowed or even actively pursued discriminatory practices akin to those found in the South to deny former slaves and their descendants access to housing, quality education, employment, fair wages, voting rights and the practice of professions.”

Republican State Senator Brian Jones, representing the 38th District, opposed the bill.  Jones, who is the chair of the Republican State Senate Caucus, argued, on Friday, Oct. 2, in a radio interview on KUSI radio, San Diego, that it was inappropriate for California to pass the bill because the issue was a national and not a state issue. The state senator said, “My ancestors didn’t own slaves. Many Americans’ that are alive today families did not own slaves.”

Five members of the taskforce will be appointed by the Governor, two by the Senate pro Tempore and two by the Assembly Speaker.

Democratic State Senator Steven Bradford, representing the 35th District and vice-chair of the CLBC, before the Governor’s signature in an interview with the California Globe, said, “If the 40-acres-and-a-mule that was promised to free slaves were delivered to the descendants of those slaves today, we would all be billionaires” and added, “I hear far too many people say, ‘Well, I didn’t own slaves, that was so long ago.’ Well, you inherit wealth — you can inherit the debt that you owe to African-Americans.”

Legal adviser Richard Weaver, in an earlier California Globe interview, addressing some of the legal challenges regarding who should receive reparations, said, “It’s a legal minefield. If it’s ‘all black people,’ does that include an immigrant who came over from Ethiopia in 1993? Does it cover mixed race people? What percentage until they can’t? How can they prove it? Do they have genealogy that traces it back? What’s the approved method? There’s hundreds of other questions that would pop up too.”

Taryn Luna, in her Sept. 30 Los Angeles Times story, pointed out that Southerners brought slaves to work in their gold mines in 1848 during the gold rush, according to the California Historical Society and slavery was allowed after California joined the union  because of a legal loophole, that in 1852 California passed its own fugitive slave law, that until 1863 California had its own laws forbidding African-Americans from testifying against whites in court and that as recently as last year Sausalito Marin City School District received the state’s first desegregation order in fifty years.

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