California task force to study reparations for Black Americans under new law signed by Gov. Newsom

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Gavin Newsom

Gov. Gavin Newsom announces new criteria related to coronavirus hospitalizations and testing that could allow counties to open faster than the state, during a news conference at Mustards Grill in Napa, Calif., Monday May 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California will develop a detailed plan for granting reparations to Black Americans under a new law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Wednesday.

The law creates a nine-member task force to come up with proposals for how the state could provide reparations to Black Americans, what form those reparations might take and who would be eligible to receive them.

The reparations would not be limited to slavery, but the law requires the task force to give special consideration for Black people who are descendants of slaves. The task force’s recommendations would not be binding. The task force must give a report to the state Legislature one year after its first meeting.

“As a nation, we can only truly thrive when every one of us has the opportunity to thrive. Our painful history of slavery has evolved into structural racism and bias built into and permeating throughout our democratic and economic institutions,” Newsom said. “California’s rich diversity is our greatest asset, and we won’t turn away from this moment to make right the discrimination and disadvantages that Black Californians and people of color still face. While there is still so much work to do to unravel this legacy, these pieces of legislation are important steps in the right direction to building a more inclusive and equitable future for all.”

California never had a government-sanctioned system of slavery. It entered the Union in 1850 as a free state. But the state did let slave-owning whites bring their slaves to California. The Legislature even passed a law making it legal to arrest runaway slaves and return them to their owners.

Reparations for slavery have been debated for decades in the United States. A similar proposal to study reparations for Black Americans was first introduced in Congress in 1989. It has never passed, but Congress held a hearing on the proposal last year.

Reparations would not be unprecedented in the United States. The U.S. government partially funded German reparations to Holocaust victims following World War II. And in 1988, the federal government set up a reparations program for Japanese-Americans who were held in concentration camps during World War II.

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