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California lawmakers vote to create reparations task force

California lawmakers vote to create reparations task force
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The California State Senate voted 33-3 on Saturday to create a commission to study reparations for African Americans.

The state Assembly must now vote on the measure before adjourning for the year, The Associated Press reported. The Assembly previously voted in favor of 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 state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D), who represents the Los Angeles area. She noted that while California was not a slave state, it took several legal steps in support of slavery before the Civil War.

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Mitchell also cited lingering racial inequalities in California, including disproportionate homelessness and unemployment and the coronavirus pandemic’s particular impact on minority communities.

“If the 40 acres and a mule that was promised to free slaves were delivered to the descendants of those slaves today, we would all be billionaires,” state Sen. Steven Bradford (D) said. “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.”

The bill would require the commission to study the lingering impact of slavery in the state and make recommendations to lawmakers by July 2023. The recommendations should include details on what form of compensation should be awarded as well as its recipients. The commission would begin its meetings no later than June 2021 and could also recommend alternate forms of redress, according to the AP.

Texas, New York and Vermont have considered similar bills in recent years, the news service noted. Advocates have said that reparations could also take the form of student loan forgiveness, housing assistance, community investments or job training.