More Californians Want Reparations For Slavery

A person with brown skin is raising a fist. The person wear a yellow watch band. By Oulwaseyi-Johnson on Unsplash

The Los Angeles Times reported that, for a strong majority of California voters, the question of whether the Golden State should offer cash payments to the descendants of enslaved African Americans has a clear answer: No.

But despite that dark finding, from a new UC Berkeley poll co-sponsored by The Times, most California voters possess a more nuanced view on the lasting legacy of slavery and how the state should address those wrongs. They agreed that slavery still affects today’s Black residents, and more than half said the state is either not doing enough, or just enough, to ensure a fair shake at success.

Those options, contained in a 1,080-page report on the effects of slavery and the discriminatory policies sanctioned by the government after slavery was abolished, may be taken up next year in the next legislative session, leaving plenty of room to explore the spectrum of opinions that voters have so far expressed, experts said.

“Often, people will be in favor of the principle but not the policy,” said Ange-Marie Hancock, the executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University and a former department chair of political science at USC. “When you get to the question of what the government should do about it, that’s when the rubber hits the road.”

Richard Malone, a 71-year-old retiree in Rancho Cucamonga, who is a registered Republican, said he fears what California’s reparations plan could do to his tax bill. Already, he said, the state is becoming too expensive for people on fixed incomes.

“I know who will pay; It’s people like me,” said Maline, a retired IRS agent. “It won’t be the rich. It won’t be the poor. It will be all of us in the middle. You don’t have to be a mathematician to know that our taxes will have to go up to pay for this.”

Malone, who is white, said he would ranter see California legislators provide “more of a helping hand” to all disadvantaged residents regardless of race. That could include more investment in schools in low-income neighborhoods, he said, as well as a revamp of community colleges and trade schools to create pathways to jobs that will pay “not only a living wage, but a good wage.”

Malone said he supports some reparations, including the 1988 decision to pay $20,000 to each of more than 80,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated by the government during World War II. But he questioned whether Black people who were not enslaved themselves deserve that same treatment.

Malone’s concern echos the most common reason why most poll respondents opposed cash reparations. Six in 10 said it was unfair to ask today’s taxpayers to pay for wrongs committed in the past, while 53% said ti would be unfair to single out one group when other racial and religious groups were also historically wronged. About 1 in 5 said the proposal would cost too much.

Kamilah Moore, the chair of the Reparations Task Force, saw she considered it a win that 6 out of 10 California voters agreed that slavery still affects today’s Black residents.

She said that negative views on the task force and cash payments were partly shaped by media consumption, especially from right-wing news outlets. Those who vote Republican, own homes and live in rural areas reported hearing about the Reparations Task Force in significantly higher numbers than Democrats, city dwellers, and renters.

Cash payments were slightly more popular among women, younger voters, and this born in the U.S.

Moore said she would like to see a lawmaker introduce a bill on cash reparations so the idea “can be debated in a democratic process.

California Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), who sat on the task force, recently introduced a bill that would create the California American Freedman Affairs Agency, tasked with overseeing and implementing reparations, including cash reparations, and helping people determine their eligibility.

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