Calif. slavery reparations panel pitches $1.2mil payments per black person

The panel argues that eligible black residents should claim the hypothetical payout regardless of whether they can demonstrate a specific harm by the state.

California is one step closer to giving its Black residents sizable payments to apologize for racism and slavery. 

The California Reparations Task Force will meet this weekend to recommend that the state pay out so-called “down payments” as a form of apology. 


The backstory: California’s reparations consideration started in 2020 after the death of George Floyd when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill that created the reparations task force, despite the fact that California never legally permitted slavery. 

The big picture: The task force published documents on Monday that show its plans for recommendations to the state for reparations. 

  • Along with the proposed down payments as reparations, the task force is targeting a formal apology from the state legislature for all harms committed or promoted by the state to its Black population. 
  • Californians eligible for the reparations must be able to trace their lineage to slavery in the United States or to ancestors who immigrated before 1900. 

By the numbers: The task force did not include an overall price tag for the reparations payouts, but it outlined three areas to estimate payments from: mass incarceration, housing discrimination and harms to health. 

  • The mass incarceration element would be $115,260 per person, housing discrimination would be $148,099 per person, and harms to health would total $966,921 per person. 
  • In all, the payout – if the legislature chooses to adopt this specific recommendation – could total more $1.2 million per person. 
  • Previous estimates from economists working with the task force have said that reparations could end up totaling over $800 billion. California’s annual budget is currently around $300 billion. 

What we’re watching: The task force is scheduled to meet on Saturday to vote on recommending the formal apology and the reparations payments. 

  • The state previously set a July 1 deadline for the task force to submit its final reparations recommendations to the Legislature. 

What they’re saying: Notably, the panel’s recommendations say that everyone eligible to receive the reparations payments should collect them regardless of whether they can prove that they suffered a specific harm. 

  • “The State of California created laws and policies discriminating against and subjugating free and enslaved African Americans and their descendants,” the recommendations read. “In doing so, those discriminatory policies made no distinctions between these individuals; the compensatory remedy must do the same.”
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