California lawmakers unveil series of reparations bills ahead of Black History Month

Sacramento, California - The California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) on Wednesday announced the introduction of 14 bills aimed at repairing the enduring harms of white supremacy.

California state Senator Steven Bradford has introduced a bill to restore properties taken by eminent domain – a policy disproportionately used against Black Americans – to their original owners.
California state Senator Steven Bradford has introduced a bill to restore properties taken by eminent domain – a policy disproportionately used against Black Americans – to their original owners.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

The slate of reparations measures was introduced one day before Black History Month and seven months after the California Reparations Task Force issued its groundbreaking final report.

The task force, established by California Assembly Bill 3121 in 2020, examined the legacy of enslavement and anti-Black discrimination from the nation's earliest days to the present. In their concluding meeting, task force members urged lawmakers to pick up the mantle to secure meaningful redress for generations of abuse.

The CLBC heeded the call on Wednesday with a broad package designed to reduce stark racial disparities in the state today.

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The measures include a formal apology for human rights violations perpetrated against enslaved Africans and their descendants. Also included are bills to expand access to educational programs and financial aid, ban involuntary servitude for incarcerated persons, restrict the use of solitary confinement in prisons, prohibit natural hair discrimination in competitive sports, and more.

Notably, state Senator Steven Bradford, who was a member of the California Reparations Task Force, has introduced a bill that would restore property seized in race-based uses of eminent domain to the original owners, or provide them with restitution or compensation.

Bradford last August introduced Senate Bill 490 to create the California American Freedmen Affairs Agency, a body tasked with overseeing the administration of reparations initiatives and helping to improve the quality of life for descendants of enslaved people.

California leads on "delayed justice" to Black Americans

Proponents characterized the package of bills as a critical step in a historic effort to address the ongoing harms of anti-Black racism.

Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber said in a statement, "As the author of AB 3121, I am pleased that the California Legislative Black Caucus has picked up the baton and is moving the state forward in addressing the recommendations delivered to them seven months ago. I am optimistic and encouraged by the work and look forward to amazing and groundbreaking outcomes."

"The nation is waiting for us to lead. And as California always does, we will lead in addressing a delayed justice called Reparations," she added.

Legislation to authorize direct cash payments to descendants is not included in the package.

Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

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