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California to Study Slavery and Consider Compensations — Shall Other States Follow the Suit?

California lawmakers are moving closer to establish a task force to study and eventually make recommendations for reparations to African American descendants of slaves.

On a bipartisan 33-3 vote Saturday, the state Senate supported the set up of a nine-member commission to examine the history of slavery in the United States and its legacy, such as local laws with disproportionately negative effects on people of color.

The bill returns to the Assembly for a final vote before the Senate adjourns on Monday. An earlier version of the bill already received approval from the majority of the Assembly members.

Sen Holly Mitchell (D) commented that the chattel slavery in California and nationwide resulted in a legacy of racial harm and inequality that continue to affect black people’s living conditions in California.

In her words, the black people suffer from disproportionate unemployment, lower academic performance, increased health risks, including during the coronavirus pandemic.

Although California was admitted to the United States as a free state in 1850, ten years before the Civil War, Mitchell highlighted the judicial steps California lawmakers made at that time to support slavery in the South.

The panel is set to meet in the first half of 2021. By Juy 2023, the panelists should present proposals for compensations, including the eligibility criteria and how the compensations will be rewarded.

The panel could also recommend some other forms of rehabilitation or redress. The reparations could be in cash, housing assistance, decreased tuition fees, forgiving student loans, job training, and more, lawmakers said.

California is not the first US state to introduce legislation that would apologize for the state’s role in slavery and explore monetary reparations.

In April, Texas Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill urging the passage of a federal reparations bill introduced earlier that month. In September, Florida lawmakers introduced a $10 million reparations bill for the descendants of the Ocoee massacre victims in 1920.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Chris Rabb also announced plans to introduce a reparations bill. Still, first he would hire a team of researchers to examine every state law since 1776 that has had “a racist impact” on Pennylsvania’s African-American population.

Rep. Rabb’s plan would include multiple tiers of compensation to residents who can prove they descend from generations of black Pennsylvanians. To be eligible for the support, they would need to prove they have lived as African Americans through government records such as birth certificates.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree the plans for reparations?