All of us at the Equal Justice Society congratulate our President Lisa Holder on the completion of her two-year term on the historic California Reparations Task Force, which is holding its final meeting now, and the release of its final report and recommendations for redressing the historical atrocities perpetrated against African Americans in California.
Lisa was appointed to the Task Force by Gov. Gavin Newsom following his signing of AB 3121, authored by then-Assemblymember Shirley Weber to establish a task force to educate the public about slavery and its history and pernicious aftereffects in California and make recommendations on how the state could provide reparations.
The California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans was the first initiative of its kind by a state government. It spent the past two years documenting how enslavement and its enduring legacy of systemic racism cemented structural inequality.
The Reparations Task Force’s final report identifies methodologies for calculating reparations payments to the community of eligibility— 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 recommends to the Legislature, for its adoption, numerous policy changes directed at redressing each and every aspect of the atrocities perpetrated against African Americans, as well as, a formal apology, and a standard curriculum to help make the history of African Americans as well as the Task Force’s findings and recommendations, accessible to people of all ages.
Other components of the report include a survey on the implementation of the California Racial Justice Act, a detailed compendium of state and federal laws and cases impacting the rights of African Americans, and a robust community engagement process undertaken at the direction of the Task Force.
Enacted on September 30, 2020, AB 3121 tasked the Reparations Task Force with studying the institution of slavery in the United States – including the keeping of enslaved persons and enforcement of “Fugitive Slave Acts” in California – and how those actions and structures put in place during the enslavement period and thereafter resulted in a system that relentlessly subjugated African Americans.
The report traces this through California’s history into the present and both details the ongoing adverse impacts on living African Americans and presents numerous ideas for policy changes designed to begin the process of repair, with special attention to addressing the specific injuries to descendants of individuals enslaved in the United States.
The final report consolidates months of hearings, expert testimony, public comments, witness statements, and an array of records and materials submitted to the task force. The report is organized as follows:
- Part I details the history of how, 158 years after the abolition of slavery, its badges and incidents remain embedded in the political, legal, health, financial, educational, cultural, environmental, social, and economic systems of California and the United States.
- Part II discusses the international framework for reparations as established by the United Nations, which requires compensation, restitution, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and guarantees of non-repetition.
- Part III offers recommendations as to how the State of California should apologize for the state’s perpetration of gross human rights violations against Africans who were enslaved and their descendants.
- Part IV sets forth methods for calculating some aspects of monetary reparations to address: (a) health disparities, (b) disproportionate African American mass incarceration and over-policing, (c) housing discrimination, (d) devaluation of African American businesses; (e) unjust property takings by eminent domain; and (f) labor discrimination.
- Part V delineates a broad set of more than 115 recommendations to the Legislature for critically needed law and policy reforms to address and redress the harms set forth in Part I and support the other recommendations in the Report.
- Part VI discusses the results of the DOJ’s survey regarding the implementation of the California Racial Justice Act, which could offer a potentially powerful tool for rooting out and addressing bias in the criminal justice system, including charging decisions, convictions, and sentencing.
- Part VII includes a report commissioned by the Task Force intended to give the community voice in the conversation concerning reparations, including through listening sessions, collection of personal testimonies and oral histories, and a statewide survey.
- Part VIII sets forth the Task Force’s recommendation that the Legislature adopt a standard curriculum centered on the Task Force’s findings and recommendations and that the Legislature fund the development and implementation of age-appropriate curricula across all grade levels.
- Part IX contains a compendium of state and federal laws and cases that demonstrate that from the birth of the nation forward, federal and state constitutional provisions, statutes, and court decisions have sanctioned, enabled, and institutionalized discrimination, on the part of government and private actors, against African Americans.
For additional information about the Reparations Task Force’s work, please visit www.oag.ca.gov/ab3121.