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    California Aims to Provide $360K to Each Black People as Reparations for Historical Injustice

    A California task force has a deadline to decide how the state should apologize and compensate Black residents for their dark slavery history. It has until July 1 to issue a report.

    The nine-member panel was convened by Governor Gavin Newsom and leaders of the Legislature’s two chambers. Their deliberations over a pivotal question will shape reparations discussions across the country.

    What is Reparations?

    Reparations are a way to compensate people for the pain and suffering they have endured as a result of historical injustices. They include apologies, recognition of historical wrongs, direct individual payments, social service benefits and community-wide investment in education, housing and infrastructure.

    Repayments are often proposed as a cash payout to descendants of enslaved people, but there have also been calls for an extensive federal government economic development program that would benefit Black communities. However, the financial burdens involved in creating and administering such a plan would be too great, potentially preventing the country from fixing its Social Security and Medicare systems and other important budget priorities that benefit all Americans.

    As a result, many people have expressed doubts about whether reparations are the answer to today’s Black issues. This is especially true when considering the subtle racism that still lurks in our police forces, courts and financial institutions. It is this type of subtle violence that makes the topic of reparations even more complex and difficult to resolve.

    Who Should Receive Reparations?

    There’s no question that America’s Dark Slavery History has made a deep impact on the position of Black people in the United States today. But it’s also true that the legacy of slavery affects Black people a great deal less than other groups, including immigrants and multiracial Americans.

    Reparations can be a way of making good on that long-standing obligation to the descendants of enslaved people, but there are many questions about who should receive them. Some of the most pressing ones involve who should receive monetary or nonmonetary compensation for the harms they have suffered over the centuries.

    For instance, members of California’s first-in-the-nation task force on reparations are discussing a range of monetary and nonmonetary strategies to calculate damages related to slavery and other injustices that still persist in the state. Some ideas include using the state’s racial wealth gap as a measure of how much Black people have lost over time, and calculating damages related to specific injustices like housing discrimination and mass incarceration.

    How Much Money Should Reparations Be?

    While debates over reparations have generally focused on how much they cost, advocates say discussions must also address other efforts for systemic change.

    The question of how much money to give Black people as reparations for America’s dark slavery history has moved into the spotlight following unprecedented protests around the world this summer. The Black Lives Matter movement and the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have led to increased political attention on racial justice, and it’s been pushed to the top of the agenda in cities and states across the country.

    A proposal put forth by a San Francisco task force last week would pay every eligible African American adult living in the city $5 million. It also recommends a series of other financial benefits, including the cancellation of personal debts, annual income supplements for 250 years and the conversion of public housing to condominiums that would be gifted to recipients. The committee’s plan calls for payments to “redress the decades of harm” Black people have suffered.

    How Will Reparations Be Paid?

    Across the United States, cities like Asheville and North Carolina, towns and counties, and state legislatures are taking steps to apologize for slavery and enact reparations for Black people. This is a welcome development in the face of decades of skepticism among many Americans about racial justice issues and the potential for government action to address them.

    Reparations for egregious injustices are a part of international human rights law, and have been successfully implemented in a variety of countries. They typically involve a multi-component intervention that includes formal apologies, public acknowledgement of historical injustice, direct individual payments allocated over time, trust funds for young recipients, and community-wide initiatives to invest in education, housing, and infrastructure.

    One challenge to implementing a reparations program is identifying who is eligible. Reparations advocates say a simple way to identify eligible individuals is by tracing their lineage. But this requires a high level of expertise, and is a significant barrier to overcome for some people.

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