California has taken a step closer to paying reparations for slavery.
On Thursday, the state assembly passed a bill that would create an eight-person task force “to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans.”
The legislation, which now goes to the state senate, passed 61-12.
Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who introduced the bill, said the legislation was necessary, despite the fact that California entered the U.S. in 1850 as a state where slavery was illegal.
“The discriminatory practices of the past echo into the everyday lives of today’s Californians,” Weber, leader of the Legislative Black Caucus, told The Associated Press.
“This country has taught itself to hate African-Americans and to deny the history that has brought us here,” she said at a news conference last week while urging colleagues to support the bill, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Lisa Holder, an attorney who teaches civil rights at UCLA School of Law, said the issue of reparations should be linked to discrimination and not slavery.
“The response really has to be framed around the issue of continuing racial injustice that started back in 1619 when Africans were stolen from Africa and brought here as enslaved people,” Holder told the AP.
“Then you don’t get into this messy, unintelligible notion of who is directly linked to a slave,” she said.
The legislation seeks to delve into the past to fully expose the extent of slavery in the country, according to the bill’s text.
“This bill would establish the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, consisting of 8 members,” it reads. “The bill would require the Task Force to, among other things, identify, compile, and synthesize the relevant corpus of evidentiary documentation of the institution of slavery that existed within the United States and the colonies.”
The bill said the task force, which must be convened by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom no later than June 1, 2021, must have four members with a history of supporting reparations.
According to the legislation: “As a result of the historic and continued discrimination, African Americans continue to suffer debilitating economic, educational, and health hardships” which include “[h]aving nearly 1,000,000 black people incarcerated” and “[a]n unemployment rate more than twice the current white unemployment rate.”
The committee will base its call for reparations on “the lingering negative effects of the institution of slavery and the discrimination … on living African Americans and on society in California and the United States,” according to the bill.
The bill said the issue of reparations will also consider “The manner in which instructional resources and technologies are being used to deny the inhumanity of slavery and the crime against humanity of people of African descent in California and the United States.”
The task force will also asses “[h]ow the State of California will offer a formal apology on behalf of the people of California for the perpetration of gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity on African slaves and their descendants,” according to the bill, and “[h]ow California laws and policies that continue to disproportionately and negatively affect African Americans as a group and perpetuate the lingering material and psychosocial effects of slavery can be eliminated.”
The panel will be charged with determining how compensation is to be calculated and awarded.
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