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Black Californians told to have 'broader view on what reparations could be,' not expect cash payments

Local leaders are calling for moderated expectations for what reparations will actually look like for Black California residents. 

California is one of multiple states negotiating over economic reparations for Black Americans whose ancestors were victimized by the Atlantic slave trade and its aftermath. While the state of California was designated as a free state when it joined the Union in 1850, their plans include restitution for actions like redlining and policing of the Black community in the past. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that California’s reparations task force is prepared to issue a nearly-1,000 page report to California’s legislature later in June, noting that this group is “likely to suggest dozens of measures that could cost hundreds of billions of dollars.”

The same publication also observed that state political leaders, including Black legislators who are in favor of reparations in some form, warn it could take years for many of the task force’s recommended policies to be implemented. “Direct financial compensation to Black Californians, they said, may not happen at all,” The Journal wrote.

He is reportedly not the only state leader who cautions that reparations may be more complicated than merely sending checks to countless California citizens.

“The Legislative Black Caucus, which includes Bradford, is expected to lead any effort to act on the task force’s recommendations,” The Journal noted. “While many members have said they support monetary reparations, some have also said programs to help Black descendants of slaves access higher education, buy a home or start a business may be more feasible in the short term.”

The Journal noted that the task force has outlined a historical case of why reparations are owed, despite California’s history as a free state in theory.

The Journal noted that many local taxpayers are debating the idea of making payments for historical misdeeds.

“Who is paying for this?” One public letter to the task force asked. “Should Japanese-Americans whose families were interned pay? Or women, who were long considered chattel and couldn’t even own property during slavery[,] pay?” 

California’s plan to grant reparations to its Black residents could cost the state $800 billion – nearly triple the state’s existing budget – economists predicted in a preliminary estimate in March.

However, leaders like California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, a former state senator who helped pass the law establishing the task force in the first place, noted to the Journal that actually implementing a reparations policy is no easy task with budget restraints.

“Because now you’re talking resources, now you’re talking investment,” she said. 

Weber also said that giving people money directly may not even the best way to enrich their lives.

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