By A. Kirsten Mullen and William A. Darity Jr.
February 2, 2022
Nearly 100 years after the property known as Bruce’s Beach was seized by Manhattan Beach through eminent domain, California has agreed to return the oceanfront parcels to the descendants of the Black couple who had owned it.
The move has been hailed as a watershed moment, touted by champions of reparations as a model for redress for land discriminatorily taken, and possibly a strategy for achieving what we call “true reparations.”
But true reparations would require eliminating the Black-white wealth gap. In California, that applies to about 2 million eligible Black residents. Estimates from the Federal Reserve’s 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances indicate that the difference in average Black and white household net worth was $840,900, which translates to about $350,000 per person.
If California were to use that figure as a reparations measure, it would require an expenditure of at least $700 billion — more than 2.5 times the state’s current $260-billion budget. Only states with a tiny Black population could afford to eliminate the gap.