New law calls for task force on addressing ‘the issues of justice and fairness’

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law that moves the Golden State one step closer to paying reparations to black Californians.

Assembly Bill 3121 calls for the creation of a 9-member task force that will make recommendations on whether compensation should be paid, the type of compensation that should be paid out, and who is eligible to receive compensation from the state.

The committee will also be charged with examining the effects slavery still has on the United States and recommending how California can make a formal apology “for the perpetration of gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity on African slaves and their descendants.”

California was admitted into the Union in 1850. In 1852, the state legislature instituted the Fugitive Slave Law, which decreed any enslaved person who had entered California before it became a state were not legally considered “free.”

“California has come to terms with many of its issues, but it has yet to come to terms with its role in slavery,” the bill’s author, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a Democrat and professor emeritus, said. “We’re talking about really addressing the issues of justice and fairness in this country that we have to address.”

“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,” Newsom said at the signing of the bill.

William Darity Jr., an economist at Duke University, warned that true reparations require a federal response, and this bill does not meet that threshold.

“I have a sense of proprietariness about the use of the term reparations, because I think people should not be given the impression that the kinds of steps that are taken at the state or local level actually constitute a comprehensive or true reparations plan,” Darity told CalMatters . “Whatever California does perhaps could be called atonement, or it could be called a correction for past actions.”

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