California Legislative Black Caucus Unveils Plan for Slavery Reparations

The California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) unveiled a comprehensive plan for slavery reparations on April 2, that includes 14 bills aimed at addressing the legacy of slavery and systemic racism in the state. The announcement comes after two years of study by the CLBC on the impact of slavery and racism on present-day California.

Key bills in the plan include:

  1. Ending involuntary servitude in prison - Assembly Bill 2634, introduced by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), would make California the first state to outlaw all forms of involuntary servitude in prison. This is significant as slavery was "abolished" in 1865, but it was quickly replaced with the convict leasing system, which forced incarcerated people to work without pay for profit.
  2. Creating a task force to study racial disparities in compensation - Assembly Bill 2537, introduced by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), would establish the Task Force on Closing the Racial Wealth Gap. This group would examine the root causes of racial disparities in income and wealth and develop strategies for narrowing the gap. This bill is an effort to address the systemic racism that has led to Black Californians earning less and having significantly less wealth than white Californians.
  3. Banning hair-based discrimination - Senate Bill 188, introduced by State Senator Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), would add a definition of "hair texture and protective styles" to existing laws that prohibit race-based discrimination in the workplace and in schools. This is meant to address the unfairness that people of color face daily over the way they choose to wear their hair.
  4. A formal apology for California's role in slavery - Senate Joint Resolution 4, introduced by State Senator Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), would formally apologize for California's participation in slavery and its detrimental effects on present-day African Americans. California was the first state to legalize slavery in the 1800s, and this apology is long overdue.
  5. Creating a task force to study reparations - Assembly Bill 3121, introduced by Assemblymember Cheryl R. R. Gurrola (D-San Bernardino), would create the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations for African Americans Impacted by the Criminal Justice System. This group would focus on the criminal justice system's disproportionate impact on African Americans and develop strategies for providing reparations.

The CLBC has made it clear that at the top of their agenda is a proposal for cash payments to California residents who are descendants of slaves. While this remains a prominent demand in the broader reparations movement, the caucus believes that focusing on systemic reforms and addressing the root causes of racism in California will create more lasting change for Black Californians.

The bills announced are now pending in the state legislature and will be heard in policy committees in the coming months.

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