California moves to consider reparations

So Black lives matter, but is that something you can really put a price on? It might be in California, where the state senate recently passed a bill that would create a task force to study the question of reparations to Black citizens if the Assembly approves the measure next week. That’s expected to happen since they already overwhelmingly approved a similar measure in the past. What form any such reparations might take isn’t being mentioned at this point, however. The initiative is largely just some word salad at this point, discussing the lasting legacy of slavery, inequity and all of the usual code words. (Associated Press)

California lawmakers are setting up a task force to study and make recommendations for reparations to African Americans, particularly the descendants of slaves, as the nation struggles again with civil rights and unrest following the latest shooting of a Black man by police.

The state Senate supported creating the nine-member commission on a bipartisan 33-3 vote Saturday. The measure returns to the Assembly for a final vote before lawmakers adjourn for the year on Monday, though Assembly members overwhelmingly already approved an earlier version of the bill.

“Let’s be clear: Chattel slavery, both in California and across our nation, birthed a legacy of racial harm and inequity that continues to impact the conditions of Black life in California,” said Democratic Sen. Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles.

Before anyone gets too carried away here, we should note that nobody is voting on actual reparations at the moment. Even if the measure is approved, all they’re voting to do is create a nine-person commission to study the possibility of reparations and discuss what form that might take. And the commission wouldn’t even be assembled until the summer of 2021. So the legislature isn’t really committing themselves to anything here.

A couple of obvious questions present themselves. First of all, this isn’t a national effort, so it would presumably be paid for by the state (and the people) of California. In case you missed class on the day they covered this, California was a free state prior to the Civil War. They didn’t allow slavery. So how much harm was done to slaves by Californians at the time is debatable, though there was obviously racism inherent in the system, just as there was across most of the nation.

Getting back to the matter of who would pay for it, the money would have to come from tax dollars. Including the tax dollars of Black Californians. So they’re talking about getting Black residents to pay for their own reparations, though everyone else would kick in as well. Unless, of course, they’re thinking of imposing a special tax just on White people to cover the cost. Even assuming you could come up with a definition of who is or isn’t White – or at least White enough – that would be a constitutional crapstorm of epic proportions. Frankly, I’d cook up a big batch of popcorn and sit back to watch that play out in the courts.

Particularly since we’re talking about California here and its “complicated” history in the 18th and 19th centuries, how will they justify only offering reparations to Black citizens? What about Asians? Anyone who knows the history of Asians in the Golden State during that era, particularly the Chinese immigrants, knows that they were heavily oppressed as well, being looked upon and treated as if they were barely humans. And let’s not even get started on the fate of the indigenous tribes who were there long before the White men arrived.

There are a number of possibilities under discussion in terms of how these reparations would be paid. I’m going to assume for the moment that they’re not talking about the plan espoused by one Black Lives Matter leader in Chicago who claimed that looting constitutes reparations. The state senators are listing “cash, housing assistance, lower tuition, forgiving student loans, job training or community investments” as possibilities. I suppose this is the 21st century equivalent of forty acres and a mule?

There are periodic discussions of reparations in the woke community all of the time. Up until now, the one question I’d never heard a viable answer to was why people who have never in their lives owned slaves should have to pay for the sins of people who live more than a century and a half ago. But California state senator Steven Bradford (D) was ready with an answer for that issue as well.“I hear far too many people say, ‘Well, I didn’t own slaves, that was so long ago.’ Well, you inherit wealth — you can inherit the debt that you owe to African-Americans.”

An interesting theory. I’d love to hear it tested in court. And I’m pretty sure we will if this initiative moves forward.

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John Stossel 1:00 PM | June 15, 2024