Thu, Jul 18, 2024

Reparations: Apology For Slavery Approved By California Lawmakers

  • PublishedMay 28, 2024

Sacramento, California—In a significant move, California lawmakers have voted to offer an official apology for the state’s historical involvement in supporting slavery. The Assembly approved the apology bill, AB 3089, authored by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, with a unanimous vote of 62-0. This bill now heads to the state Senate, and if approved, will be sent to Governor Gavin Newsom for final approval.

Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat from South Los Angeles, crafted the bill after serving on a state task force that examined the harms committed against Black residents.

“We were people’s properties in this state. And it was defended by the State Supreme Court and other courts,” he stated during the Assembly session.

Despite strong bipartisan support for the apology bill, with six Republicans joining Democrats in the vote, four Democrats and twelve Republicans abstained from voting. Upon passing, the Assembly erupted in applause, marking a moment of unity and recognition of past injustices.

California joins states such as Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, which have all enacted apologies for their roles in slavery.

This bill is part of a broader package of reparations bills supported by the California Legislative Black Caucus.

Read More: California Moves Closer to Formal Apology for Slavery After Unanimous Assembly Vote

In February, the state Assembly approved a resolution acknowledging the historical “harms and atrocities” inflicted on Black residents, authored by Assemblymember Akilah Weber, a Democrat from San Diego.

Several key bills in the reparations package have also cleared significant legislative hurdles. A proposal by Senator Steven Bradford, a Democrat from Inglewood, to compensate Black residents for land unjustly taken through eminent domain has moved forward. Additionally, the California Senate advanced legislation to create an agency to help Black families research their lineage and confirm eligibility for future restitution, as well as a bill to establish a reparations fund.

Bradford emphasized the state’s responsibility to atone for past injustices against Black Californians.

“If you can inherit generational wealth, you can inherit generational debt,” he said. “Reparations is a debt that’s owed to descendants of slavery.”

Another significant bill, which would require state licensing boards to prioritize Black applicants, passed through the Legislature’s appropriations committees despite opposition from the Pacific Legal Foundation. Andrew Quinio, an attorney from the foundation, argued that making race a factor is unconstitutional and burdensome for the state’s workers.

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However, not all proposals in the reparations package survived the legislative process. Two bills aimed at implementing the California Reparations Task Force’s recommendations were shelved last week. SB 1007, which would have provided financial aid for home buying or maintenance, and SB 1013, which proposed property tax relief for descendants of slaves, both died in the suspense file.

The progress of these bills signifies a crucial step towards addressing historical injustices and offering reparations to Black residents in California. The outcome of these legislative efforts will be closely watched as they move through the state Senate and Assembly.

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