Activists have demanded millions of dollars in reparations for each Black California resident as the state‘s reparations task force faced a highly explosive meeting on Saturday.
The gathering was held to hear comments from the public before the task force submits final recommendations to the California Legislature. The task force was created in 2020 by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom through state legislation.
Reverend Tony Pierce was one of the most outspoken people at the meeting, making reference to the famous “40 acres and a mule“ promise to former slaves when he took the podium.
“The equivocal number from the 1860s for 40 acres to today is $200 million for each and every African–American,” Pierce said.
He also criticized the task force for not pushing an ambitious enough plan.
“You‘re not supposed to be afraid,” he said. “You‘re just supposed to tell the truth. You‘re not supposed to be the gatekeepers. You‘re supposed to say what the people want and hear from the people.”
Pierce concluded with a warning to Newsom: “Tell Governor Newsom we‘re coming. He knows me.”
Earlier this week, the task force published its latest proposals, which don‘t contain an overall price tag but instead outline ways California could calculate how much money Black residents have lost since 1850, when the state was established, through today due to discrimination.
The estimates include, for example, losing $2,352 per person per year of California residence for the over–policing of Black communities, $3,366 per person per year of residence for “discriminatory lending and zoning,” $13,619 per person per year of residence for “injustices and discrimination in health“ and $77,000 per person for Black–owned business losses and devaluations.
The task force also urges in its latest documents that eligible Black Californians receive cash “down payments“ as soon as possible while waiting for the full amount of money lost due to racism and slavery to be calculated.
In total, a Black person who has lived in California for their whole life, until at least age 71, could potentially receive more than $1.2 million in lifetime restitution.
However, many activists argued that this amount is nowhere near enough.
“We want direct cash payments just like how the stimulus [checks] were sent out,” one woman said. “It‘s our inheritance, and we can handle it.”
The issue has sparked fierce debate, with some arguing that reparations are fiscally unmanageable and don‘t make sense since California never allowed slavery. Proponents counter that racial discrimination in the state has devastated the Black community, costing it untold amounts of money.
The task force is set to vote on its latest recommendations on Saturday evening. A final report with the panel‘s official recommendations is due by July 1 to the state legislature.