Reparations: American state scales first hurdle
By Tasie Theodore
The American state of California has scaled the first hurdle in the march towards paying reparations to African descendants of slavery, The Difference has learnt.
The development came as the state legislature passed a bill to establish a team that would work out the modalities of the process.
With the motion to this effect being passed on Wednesday, California became the first state in the country to adopt a law paving the way for Black residents and descendants of slaves to receive reparation payments.
The legislation was sponsored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a Democrat representing San Diego, who also doubles as chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus
While it does not openly commit to any specific payment, it is establishing a nine-person task force that will study the impact of slavery on Black people in California and recommend to the Legislature what kind of compensation should be provided, who should receive it and what form it will take.
Underscoring his support for the initiative, Gov. Gavin Newsom promptly signed the law Wednesday afternoon.
“After watching last night’s debate, this signing can’t come too soon,” he said during a videoconference with lawmakers and other stakeholders, including the rapper Ice Cube, who used his celebrity to champion the bill.
“As a nation, we can only truly thrive when every one of us has the opportunity to thrive. Our painful history of slavery has evolved into structural racism and bias built into and permeating throughout our democratic and economic institutions,” a statement from the Governor’s office underscored.
Africans were taken from the continent and forcibly enslaved in Europe and North America for centuries.
Interestingly, the law received bipartisan support in the Legislature and the feeling is that it could help accelerate a process that would see many other states following suit.
Says Weber of the development:
“This is an extremely important time for all of us. California tries to lead the way in terms of civil rights, and we have a responsibility to do that.”
But she also concedes that more work needs to be done:
“California has come to terms with many of its issues, but it has yet to come to terms with its role in slavery. After 400 years, we still have the impact.”
Racial relations has been a major issue in the build-up to the forthcoming US presidential polls.