California reparations panel approves payments of up to $1.2 million to every black resident

California's legislature could vote on the panel's recommendations

The California Reparations Task Force formally recommended that the state offer payments of up to $1.2 million to every qualifying black resident.

The task force held a public meeting in Oakland, California on Saturday and voted on the final set of recommendations to be sent to the state's legislators. The nine-member panel called on the state to offer its black residents a formal apology in addition to the payments.

"Reparations are not only morally justifiable, but they have the potential to address longstanding racial disparities and inequalities," Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said after attending the meeting.

The panel's recommendation breaks payments down by types of historical discrimination. For instance, black residents affected by redlining by banks would receive $3,366 for each year they lived in California from the early 1930s to the late 1970s, amounting to up to $148,099.


Rep. Barbara Lee

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., supports reparations for black Americans and has proposed legislation that would bring a federal inquiry into the matter. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Similarly, black residents could receive roughly $2,352 in compensation for over-policing and mass incarceration for each year they lived in California between 1970 and 2020. Those payments could amount to $115,260.

In total, from these and other payments included in the plan, a black Californian who is 71 years old and has lived in California his entire life could receive up to $1.2 million, according to analysis from the New York Times.

California reparations task force members

Kamilah Moore, chair of the California Reparations Task Force, left, and Amos Brown, vice chair, at the California Science Center in Los Angeles on Sept. 22, 2022. ((Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images))


The panel's Saturday vote included only recommendations for the state legislature and does not have any legal weight.

Saturday's meeting included opposition from some Black residents demanding larger payments. An activist identified as Reverend Tony Pierce was one of the more outspoken people at the gathering, making reference to the famous "40 acres and a mule" promise to former slaves when he took the podium.


"You know that the numbers should be equivocal to what an acre was back then. We were given 40, okay? We were given 40 acres. You know what that number is. You keep trying to talk about now, yet you research back to slavery and you say nothing about slavery, nothing," said Pierce. "So, the equivocal number from the 1860s for 40 acres to today is $200 million for each and every African-American."

Most people who spoke at Saturday's meeting spoke in support of reparations. Despite such agreement, however, sparks flew throughout the chaotic, emotionally charged gathering as arguments broke out. Indeed, many attendees spoke out of turn and interrupted each other, leading Kamilah Moore, the task force chair, to call for security to remove people multiple times.

The draft recommendation noted that California entered the Union as a free state in 1850, but said that it did not pass laws at the time to guarantee freedom.  The recommendation pointed out that for a decade after emancipation, California continued to allow the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act, which called for the capture and return of runaway slaves.

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