By Lenin O’Mahony
Recently the State of California’s legislature passed Assembly Bill 3121, which was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 30, 2020. This legislation effectively requires the establishment of a task force which will recommend to the state legislature a form of financial compensation, a manner of which compensation should be distributed, and guidelines for who will be eligible for such compensation. The compensation which is being discussed, is towards the African American communities in California who were effected by or descended from slavery. This task force would look into how the economic and social effects of slavery and segregation have harmed modern day communities.
California joined the Union in 1850, and while it was a free state, slave holders could legally bring their slaves into the state and California law required runaway slaves be arrested and returned. California is now the first state in the nation to pass a law requiring a study of reparations, but similar legislation has been proposed in a number of other states.
This law only requires an investigation into the realistic options for implementing certain forms of reparations, and actual reparations could not be approved through this law alone, but would need to go through state legislation again. Despite this law not guaranteeing any concrete results, it would be extremely disappointing for supporters of reparations for this task force to come up empty handed in terms of possible solutions.
There have been some serious concerns from right leaning groups about the possibility of reparations. Some view such actions as unfair and inappropriate as the nation as a whole struggles with the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not currently known to what extent these reparations may go in terms of money spent, or in what manner it will be distributed.
Many believe that such reparations should be implemented through investment into primarily black communities that are impoverished and suffer from inequalities such as food deserts, which are situations where community members need to travel large distances in order to reach proper grocery stores with healthy produce. For many marginalized areas in the nation and state, the only sources of food are corner stores which do not carry fresh produce or natural items.
We recently saw the usage of stimulus checks during the early stages of the COVID-19 economic shut down, which was used to stimulate the economy and aid individuals who had lost their jobs. Similar checks are another method which could potentially be used to distribute reparations in the state.
The state task force will face another difficult task of deciding who is going to be able to benefit from the potential reparations, depending on the method of distribution. Many factors need to be taken into account and it is far from an easy process. While the job of proposing methods and rules for the potential reparation program in California is a difficult task, many people in the primarily liberal state are glad to see that this legislation passed. Recent protests and riots that sprung up across the country after the death of George Floyd were certainly catalysts behind this legislation being finally passed after years of being proposed.
Melanie Moyer '22,