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California in 2020 mandated the creation of the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans. It spent three years examining the effects of slavery on Black Americans throughout the state’s history, and made recommendations about compensation to Black Californians for the harms done to them.
The Task Force on May 7 approved recommendations to the Legislature that include preliminary payment amounts for damage suffered by Blacks because of housing, health care and policing policies and practices. One estimate suggests that a 71-year-old lifelong resident could theoretically qualify for more than $1 million. But that doesn’t mean every Black resident would get that amount, if the recommendations became law.
The task force will meet once more before July 1, the deadline for sending its final report to the Legislature. Any action would require legislative and gubernatorial approval. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom on May 10 declined to say whether he would support the recommended payments. One task force member who is also a lawmaker suggested any final reparations might not come in the form of a check.
After a California-based task force voted to approve a recommendation for reparations to be paid to Black residents, some people tweeted news that distorted its impact.
"California has approved $1.2 million in reparations for every black resident," social media influencer Amiri King tweeted May 7. "Activists are unhappy and are demanding $200m each. What do you think?"
Others tweeted similar claims, and in a response to PolitiFact, King reiterated that the task force approved the payments. But this rumor misunderstands the power of the group’s action. A legislatively mandated task force made a recommendation for reparations, but there has been no official action that would finalize awarding reparations to each Black Californian, let alone an amount in the millions.
The task force will meet once more before July 1, the deadline for submitting recommendations. Before any version of the proposal could become law, the Legislature would have to vote and pass it to the governor’s desk for signature.
Although Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill authorizing the task force’s formation, he has not publicly said that he supports the group’s specific recommendations.
"Dealing with that legacy is about much more than cash payments," Newsom said in a May 10 statement to KCRA-TV in Sacramento. "This work must continue. Following the Task Force's submission of its final report this summer, I look forward to a continued partnership with the Legislature to advance systemic changes that ensure an inclusive and equitable future for all Californians."
Newsom in 2020 signed Assembly Bill 3121, establishing the nine-member Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans. The move followed the murder of George Floyd, who died May 25, 2020, after a Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned his knee to Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
The task force, composed of state and city lawmakers, a civil rights leader, clinical psychologist, attorneys and an economic anthropologist and geographer, was assigned to study reparations to people in the Black community and make recommendations to the state. The group spent three years examining "the institution of slavery and its lingering negative effects on living African Americans, including descendants of persons enslaved in the United States and on society," according to the group’s website.
On May 7, the task force approved recommendations to compensate Black people for harms from discriminatory health care and housing, mass incarceration and overpolicing, unjust property takings and devaluation on African American businesses. Economists and others measured these harms by years when state-endorsed policies and actions would have affected Black Californians. But the report said the findings were "preliminary estimates of monetary losses to African Americans" across three of those five categories.
"The Task Force recommends that when the Legislature engages in its eventual determination, it releases to the public the data underpinning this calculation to allow scholars and experts to have access to this information and to better understand the process by which the costs were calculated," the Task Force’s report said.
Black people comprise about 6.5% of the state’s population, about 2.5 million people, U.S Census numbers show. If the state were to proceed with the proposal’s recommendations, an estimate by The New York Times found a lifelong, 71-year-old resident could theoretically be eligible to receive more than $1 million. But that doesn’t mean every Black resident would get that amount, if it became law.
Possible estimated values of recommended reparations for Black Californians include:
For health disparities: $13,619 for each year of residency, based on Black Californians’ life expectancy of 71 years;
for mass incarceration and over-policing: $115,260 or $2,352 for each year of California residency during the 49-year period from 1971 to 2020.
- for housing discrimination: $148,099, or $3,366 for each year lived in California from 1933 to1977.
The task force also recommended compensation for unjust property seizures and devaluation of businesses because of state policies. But the group stopped short of assigning dollar amounts to reparations and instead suggested strategies the Legislature could employ to arrive at fair compensation. It also recommended that the state issue a formal apology to Black Americans similar to the apologies given to Japanese Americans for racist treatment and forced internment camps during World War II and to Native Americans for violence, mistreatment and neglect.
State Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, a task force member, told KCRA-TV and Politico he doubted the Legislature would ultimately approve direct-payment reparations. He said he believed Newsom was being careful in his public statement not to suggest otherwise.
"I think he’s setting a realistic expectation there probably won’t be check payments in the amount we’ve bannered around," Bradford told KCRA. "I’ve tried to temper people’s expectations that it might not be a check."
King tweeted, "California has approved $1.2 million in reparations for every black resident."
A state-mandated task force recommended reparations to the state’s Black residents. One estimate suggests that, if they were implemented, a 71-year-old lifelong resident of California might be eligible for more than $1 million. But that does not mean every Black resident would receive that amount — and any plan would require legislative and gubernatorial approval to become law.
The task force has yet to send its final plan to the Legislature, but will do so by July 1. The claim is premature and lacks a full understanding of the task force’s actions.
We rate this claim False.
Twitter post, May 7, 2023
Twitter post, May 7, 2023
Twitter post, May 7, 2023
ABC 7 News, Newsom declines to publicly support reparations payments recommended by California task force, May 10, 2023
KCRA 3 News, 'Much more than cash': Newsom responds to recommendations from California reparations task force, May 10, 2023
Office of Governor Gavin Newsom, Governor Newsom Signs Landmark Legislation to Advance Racial Justice and California’s Fight Against Systemic Racism & Bias in Our Legal System, Sept. 30, 2020
State of California Department of Justice, AB 3121: Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, accessed May 8, 2023
U.S. Census Bureau, QuickFacts: California, accessed May 11, 2023
Final Draft Report Material for Task Force Consideration, Chapter 16: Recommendation for California to Apologize, May 6, 2023
Final Recommendations of Task Force Regarding Calculations of Losses to African American Descendants of a Chattel Enslaved Person, or Descendants of a Free Black Person Living in the United States Prior to the End of the 19th Century, and Forms of Compensation and Restitution, Pages 3, 4, 7, 8, 16, 26, 28 accessed May 8-11, 2023
CalMatters, California’s reparations task force explained, April 13, 2022
Stanford Center for Racial Justice, California Reparations Task Force Details Proposals in Interim Report, June 28, 2022
Fox News, California reparations panel approves payments of up to $1.2 million to every Black resident, May 7, 2023
The New York Times, California Panel Calls for Billions in Reparations for Black Residents, May 5, 2023
The Washington Post, What to know about California’s reparations proposal for Black Americans, May 8, 2023
Politico, Cash for slavery reparations gets cool response from California officials, May 10, 2023
Email interview with Amiri King, May 11. 2023
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