Historic report lays out case to compensate descendants of slaves in California

professional headshot of Dr. William Darity

By Levi Sumagaysay June 1, 2022

California released of a first-of-its-kind report Wednesday laying out the case for reparations to the descendants of U.S. slaves, along with preliminary recommendations about what that compensation might look like. The report, released by a nine-member reparations task force, details California’s history of participation in white supremacy through slavery and subsequent government policies and actions that served to discriminate against Black residents in all facets of their lives. The task force’s dozens of recommendations for reparations to Black Californians who are descendants of U.S. slaves would try to rectify those widespread harms, including a persistent racial wealth gap — but did not include a specific call for direct payments, which is expected to come in a final report next year.

“This is a huge day for all Californians and a huge day for democracy,” Lisa Holder, a civil rights attorney and a member of the task force, told MarketWatch. “I’m very, very proud to be a part of this historical initiative and to be connected to this groundbreaking report and analysis.” Holder said “when I was growing up, I knew I was going to have to work twice as hard to get half as much. That is a bitter pill for a young person to have to swallow. What this report does is, it explains to the world — and to Black youth in particular — the historical discrimination that has created the imbalance and inequity that requires them to work twice as hard to be seen as half as good.” … Duke University professor William Darity, Jr. told MarketWatch that he believes local and state-level reparations efforts are insufficient. An economist and co-author of the book “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century,” Darity said he was a pro-bono consultant to the California task force, along with co-author A. Kirsten Mullen. He said they have advocated for decades for a federal approach to reparations because they estimate that trillions of dollars are needed to eliminate the racial wealth gap. They recommended that the task force identify harms that are specific to the state and make recommendations based on those findings, he said.

“What might be unique to California is the discriminatory exercise of eminent-domain powers or the particular ways in which over-policing and mass incarceration have been directed at the Black community,” Darity said. “The task force has been given a very, very difficult project — designing a program of action for a problem that is best suited for federal action.”