California Governor Gavin Newsom is facing criticism from some reparations advocates who urge him to veto a bill they say would undermine the work of a historic task force studying reparations proposals for African Americans.
The bill, AB 3121, would create a new state office to oversee reparations programs and allocate $100 million over five years to fund them. The bill’s supporters say it would provide a framework and a funding source for implementing the recommendations of the California Reparations Task Force, which is expected to issue its final report by July 1.
California Governor Taskforce
But some members of the task force and other reparations activists say the bill would preempt the task force’s authority and limit its options for designing a comprehensive reparations plan. They also argue that the bill’s funding amount is woefully inadequate, given that some economists have estimated that the state owes more than $500 billion to its Black residents for decades of discrimination and oppression.
The task force, which was created by a law signed by Newsom in 2020, is the first of its kind in the nation. It consists of nine members appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, who represent diverse backgrounds and expertise in civil rights, academia and reparations advocacy.
The mission of the committee, which met for the first time in June 2021, is to document California’s role in perpetuating discrimination against African Americans, craft an official government apology and draft a comprehensive reparations plan.
The task force has not endorsed specific payment amounts or eligibility criteria, but it has recommended that “any reparations program include the payment of cash or its equivalent” to eligible residents. Some task force members suggested that each Black Californian should receive at least $360,000, based on calculations of historical harms and present-day disparities.
Newsom has not indicated whether he will sign or veto AB 3121, which passed both chambers of the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support. He has until Oct. 10 to act on the bill.
Newsom has expressed support for the task force’s work and said he is committed to advancing justice and healing for African Americans. However, he also said that “dealing with the legacy of slavery is about much more than cash payments.”
Some reparations advocates say they are disappointed by Newsom’s lack of leadership on the issue and fear that he will cave in to political pressure from opponents of reparations.
Reparations Advocates Appeal To Governor Newsom
“We need him to stand up for us and veto this bill,” said Marcus Champion, a Los Angeles resident and organizer with the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California. “This bill is an insult to our community and an attempt to sabotage our task force.”
Others say they are hopeful that Newsom will listen to the task force’s concerns and work with them to craft a better bill that respects their autonomy and authority.
“We appreciate the governor’s support for reparations and we want to collaborate with him on this historic endeavor,” said Sen. Steven Bradford, a Democrat from Los Angeles who serves on the task force. “We just want him to give us a chance to finish our work and present our findings before he makes any decisions.”