A California task force voted Tuesday to limit reparations to black families whose ancestors were in the US in the 19th century, drawing criticism from others who support compensation regardless of lineage.
The task force voted 5-4 after hours of debate that at times became heated. A proposal with recommendations is expected to be released by July 2023 before it could go before the state Legislature for a vote.
Lisa Holder, a task force member and a civil rights attorney, said the task force should continue to listen to the public’s opinions while working with economists to carve out a plan.
“We need to galvanize the base and that is black people,” she said. “We can’t go into this reparations proposal without having all African Americans in California behind us.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation two years ago to give “special consideration” to black Americans who are direct descendants of enslaved people.
Reparations could include assistance with buying homes and establishing businesses, grants to churches and organizations and free college tuition.
However, under Tuesday’s vote, some black Californians– such as immigrants from East and West African and the Caribbean — would not be eligible for the compensation. That means only a fraction of the state’s 2.6 million black residents would be able to benefit from the proposal.
While black residents make up about 6.5 percent of California’s population according to U.S. Census data, black men make up nearly 30 percent of the state’s prison population.
The task force also has to come up and approve a plan on how black Californians would be able to prove their ancestry.
California Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, who voted against limiting eligibility, said there is no question that descendants of slaves are the priority. He said the task force also needs to prevent future harm from racism and start discussing how to close the severe wealth gap, according to the Associated Press.
Jones-Sawyer added he wished the panel would stop “bickering” over money they don’t have yet.
“We’re arguing over cash payments, which I firmly don’t believe are the be all and end all,” he said.