California should pay reparations to African Americans, task force says

A California task force released a 500-page report detailing the state’s role in perpetuating historic discrimination against African Americans, while recommending an official government apology and making a case for financial restitution.

The document made public on Wednesday explained the harms suffered by descendants of enslaved people long after slavery was abolished in the 19th century, citing discriminatory laws and practices in housing, education, employment and the legal system.

“From colonial times forward, governments at all levels adopted and enshrined white supremacy beliefs and passed laws in order to maintain slavery, a system of dehumanization and exploitation that stole the life, labor, liberty, and intellect of people of African descent,” the task force said in a report to the California legislature.

The task force was formed by California in 2020 to research and develop reparation proposals for African Americans, making it the first U.S. state to engage in such a study. Individual cities and educational institutions have previously taken up the cause.

“This system of white supremacy is a persistent badge of slavery that continues to be embedded today in numerous American and Californian legal, economic, and social and political systems,” the report said.

“These effects of slavery continue to be embedded in American society today and have never been sufficiently remedied. The governments of the United States and the State of California have never apologized to or compensated African Americans for these harms.”

The task force will release a further comprehensive reparations plan next year. California is home to the fifth-largest Black population in the United States.

The report also made initial recommendations within the prison system, saying that incarcerated people should not be forced to work while in prison and if they do, they must be paid fair market wages.