Reparations Roundup

June 07, 2024 | By ANDREW QUINIO

Lawmakers across the country are proposing reparations to black Americans for slavery and America’s history of racial discrimination. Proposals have included direct cash payments, grants, formal apologies from the government, and government programs with race-based eligibility.

There are those who believe, as Ibram X. Kendi wrote, that “the remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.” But Pacific Legal Foundation agrees with Chief Justice John Roberts, who said in the 2007 Parents Involved decision, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

Because reparations proposals would inevitably advantage and disadvantage individuals based on their race and ancestry—in violation of the Constitution—PLF is tracking the development of these policies at state and local levels.

Here is what has happened this past month:

California’s reparations proposals advance

Earlier this year, the state’s Legislative Black Caucus introduced a variety of bills implementing several recommendations of the California Reparations Task Force. Last month, the State Senate passed several of them for the Assembly to consider:

  • SB 1403 – Establishes the California American Freedmen Affairs Agency to implement the recommendations of the Reparations Task Force and oversee other state agencies tasked with implementation.
  • SB 1050 – Directs the California American Freedmen Affairs Agency to investigate and compensate claims of those whose property was taken as a result of racially motivated eminent domain by the government.
  • SB 1331 – Establishes the Fund for Reparations and Reparative Justice to fund state reparations policies.
  • SB 1348 – Designates colleges and universities as Black-Serving Institutions that have black and African American students as 10 percent of the student body and offer certain programs.

Meanwhile, the Assembly passed AB 2862, but not without resistance. The bill would require boards under the Department of Consumer Affairs to prioritize African American applicants for professional and occupational licenses, especially those who are descendants of slaves. It now goes to the Senate.

Not every reparations bill made it through. The Senate held back SB 1013, which would give property tax assistance to African American descendants of slaves, and SB 1007, which would give housing grants to those individuals living in formerly redlined areas.

Governor Gavin Newsom has until September 30 to sign or veto any bills that reach his desk. The governor signaled last year that he was less supportive of direct cash payments but lauded ongoing efforts to address voting barriers, hate, law enforcement reforms, and economic mobility. Whether he sees the current legislation fitting within these efforts will be known in the fall.

In Palm Springs

The New York Times does a deep dive into a potential reparations plan in Palm Springs, California. The desert city proposed paying around $4.3 million to the former residents and their descendants of Section 14, a neighborhood that saw the eviction of its mostly black and Latino families to make way for commercial development. The evictions were purportedly motivated by the race of the tenants. Although the city apologized for its role in the displacement of Section 14’s residents, “there are disagreements over who was responsible for the forced removals and whether the evictions were done with proper notice.” The Agua Caliente tribe owned Section 14, while several entities were involved in clearing the community, including the city Fire Department. As with many reparations programs, the history and remedy in Palm Springs are more complex than advocates make it seem.

Asheville is finally making recommendations

And they won’t be outdone by California. After two years of meetings, staff resignations, and member departures, North Carolina’s Asheville Community Reparations Commission began to announce recommendations that it will push the City to adopt. That includes a guaranteed income program that provides monthly, no-strings-attached cash payments with no work requirements. This type of program has been tried in other places, including San Francisco, which is being sued for its program because the program unlawfully discriminates in violation of the U.S. and California Constitutions. Asheville should take heed.

Speaking of lawsuits

With the help of Judicial Watch, six residents are suing the City of Evanston, Illinois. for its Restorative Housing reparations program. Under the program, black residents that lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 and their descendants can receive funding for their mortgages or home repairs, or direct cash payments. Evanston is the first city in the United States to establish a government-funded reparations program. The city marked a milestone last August after the program’s disbursements topped $1 million. The six residents suing Evanston are descendants of individuals that lived in the city during the requisite time period but are not black or African American. Their lawsuit alleges, “[Evanston]…is depriving Plaintiffs of their right to equal protection by purposefully and intentionally discriminating against Plaintiffs on the basis of race.”

Boston is finding itself

Behind the scenes, Beantown’s reparations task force members “are split on what reparations should look like and who exactly should determine it,” reports The Boston Globe. “Some want to move forward only when the research is complete so that they’re equipped with vetted, solid data when creating a reparations framework for the public.” The task force was formed in February 2023 and asked to offer its recommendations this October, but it will not likely make them until next year. Like Asheville’s commission, Boston’s task force has suffered some member resignations. It has held few public meetings, with no clear schedule. But its chairperson notes, “this is a marathon, not a sprint.”

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