California has become the first state to adopt a law that requires state government to develop proposals for reparations to descendants of slaves and those impacted by slavery.
“California has come to terms with many of its issues, but it has yet to come to terms with its role in slavery,” California assemblywoman Shirley Weber said.
“We’re talking about really addressing the issues of justice and fairness in this country that we have to address.”
To study and develop proposals regarding the matter, the state has organized a task force of nine members appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom. Together, the nine members will examine how slavery has impacted institutions and created disparities of wealth, education, employment and beyond.
"As a nation, we can only truly thrive when every one of us has the opportunity to thrive. Our painful history of slavery has evolved into structural racism and bias built into and permeating throughout our democratic and economic institutions," Newsom said.
Newsom's efforts are a far cry from the state's first Governor, Peter Burnett, who attempted to ban freed slaves from the state in 1849.
“Had they been born here, and had acquired rights in consequence, I should not recommend any measure to expel them," Burnett said during his inaugural address.
“They are not now here, except a few in comparison with the numbers that would be here; and the object is to keep them out.”
Adding on to Burnett's decree, legislators passed fugitive slave laws in the 1850's that allowed citizens to capture and return slaves to the south for sums of money. In 1863, the state banned Black people from testifying against white people in court. It wasn't until 1963 that the state banned housing discrimination on the basis of race. Still, high-profile California property owners such as Donald Sterling have been sued for housing discrimination in recent memory.
Despite missteps in recent memory, the state believes that this bill can move California in the right direction
"While there is still so much work to do to unravel this legacy, these pieces of legislation are important steps in the right direction to building a more inclusive and equitable future for all," Newsom stated.
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