California lawmakers introduce reparations package with formal apology for slavery

California lawmakers introduced 14 reparations bills to the state legislature on Wednesday aimed at supporting Black communities and addressing historical injustices.

The bills were put forward by members of the California Legislative Black Caucus. They include proposals to formally apologize for slavery, return property taken through race-based eminent domain, expand career education opportunities, and fund community programs to reduce violence.

These first legislative actions are part of a larger effort expected to unfold over many years.

“While many only associate direct cash payments with reparations, the true meaning of the word, to repair, involves much more,” said Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson, chair of the Black Caucus.

The bills follow a comprehensive 1,100 page report released in June by the California Reparations Task Force. The task force, created by legislation in 2020, spent two years examining the issue and made over 100 recommendations.

In addition to the bills introduced on Wednesday, the task force’s other recommendations focused on areas like compensating impacted individuals, decreasing violence, and improving health outcomes in Black communities.

The 14 bills would:

  • Create a grant program for career and technical education
  • Expand financial aid for career education
  • Allow the state to fund programs to improve life expectancy, education, and reduce poverty for specific groups
  • Formally acknowledge state responsibility for harms caused by slavery
  • Prohibit hair discrimination in sports
  • Return property lost through race-based eminent domain
  • Issue a formal apology for slavery and related human rights violations
  • Prohibit involuntary servitude for prisoners
  • Eliminate unchecked banning of books
  • Fund community violence reduction programs
  • Restrict solitary confinement
  • Make supportive food and nutrition permanent Medi-Cal benefits
  • Require notice before grocery store closures
  • Remove barriers to business licenses for former prisoners
  • Prioritize licensing for African Americans

None of the initial bills call for direct cash payments, which has drawn criticism from both sides. The reparations effort is expected to continue over a multi-year timeframe.