As A White Man, I’ve Struggled With How To Feel About Reparations For Black Californians | Old North State Wealth News
Connect with us

US News

As a white man, I’ve struggled with how to feel about reparations for Black Californians



It’s been almost three years since Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Legislature launched a discussion about the state’s responsibility to provide reparations for resident African Americans who are descendants of the nation’s slavery period from 1619 to 1865.

In 2020, along party lines, the legislature approved Assembly Bill 3121, which called for the creation of a task force to study and provide recommendations on reparations for slavery to the Black community. Newsom signed the bill into law on Sept. 30, 2020.


Now the task force has drafted its proposed path, with a final report due by July 1. And then what?

Reparations are an issue that will not die quietly nor will it be easy to find a clear compromise. As a white person, I see this as among the most difficult policy journeys California has undertaken, and we are far from a resolution. Even the nine-member reparations task force split 5-4 on defining eligibility for reparations after a six-hour hearing.

A successful policy journey for California would result in some combination of future actions that advance justice and equity. But the prospect of a ruinous and emotional train wreck feels quite real and beyond worrisome.

My journey in considering reparations has evolved into four distinct phases: First and easiest came the absorption of the undeniable facts.

California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans has five appointees from the governor and four by legislative leadership. The draft recommendations persuasively make the case for “the array of harms visited upon African Americans broadly, and more specifically, African Americans living in California since the state’s founding.”

Those harms are manifested today in grim statistics, such as:

  • The average Black, non-Hispanic person lives 7.6 years less in California than a white, non-Hispanic person.

  • While surveys have shown similar levels of drug use across America’s racial spectrum, the percentage of Black people who have been imprisoned is three times greater than their percentage of the nation’s population.

  • A legacy of zoning and financial institution practices helped lead to only 36.8% of Black people owning their home in California in 2019 compared to 63.2% of white people.

Second came a review of the proposed remedies — and, quite frankly, a negative reaction to the proposed algorithms for reparations.

The task force monetized the proposed reparations right down to the dollar. For example, the proposed reparation for health harms is $13,619 for each year lived in California; proposed reparation for mass incarceration is $2,352 for every year lived in California between 1971 and 2020; and proposed reparation for housing discrimination is $3,366 for a different time span, from 1933 to 1977.

The numbers set off alarm bells. How can such precision to the dollar be possible? Why did the enabling legislation never contemplate the division of reparation responsibilities among California, the federal government and the Confederate states that so defended slavery?

This visceral reaction leads straight into the third part of the journey: introspection.

I happen to be a white male who has never feared a cop and never felt discrimination. I am a beneficiary, never a victim, of America’s past or present.

Author Robin DiAngelo diagnoses my problem with the jarring term, “White Fragility.” It is the name of her 2018 book that circles like a hawk in my head to this day. DiAngelo essentially challenged white America to get a grip and confront its individual and institutionalized racial biases that perpetuate the inequities and to discuss, rinse and repeat.

Her words did not all ring true, but they certainly motivated introspection. With reparations, why am I reacting so negatively to this task force’s calculations when the data demonstrating discrimination is so overwhelming?

Meanwhile, the journey toward reparations ultimately turns to raw pragmatism and the political realities of today.

Reparations do not have sufficient public support based on a limited number of surveys. One from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2021 found opposition from nearly two-thirds of Americans and nearly 90% of Republicans.

Yet it was barely a generation ago when there was room inside American politics to actually distribute reparations. Democratic Representative Norman Mineta of San Jose worked with Republic Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, friends since their time in Boy Scouts, to pass the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. The U.S. apologized to the estimated 120,000 Japanese Americans who were forced to live in incarceration camps during World War II. Internees received reparations of $20,000 apiece, an act signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.

Granted, the issues and the harms inflicted are different. But since this bipartisan act of justice, America’s racial divide has widened.

My Twitter feed frequently includes some media updates on what Gov. Newsom or his staff did, did not, or should say about reparations. A tantalizing scent of controversy lurks like a shark in California’s political waters.

With each new journey through the topic, new questions come to mind: What about California’s Indigenous population who are the state’s original water rights holders, but who now have little under modern law? What about Latino residents who are less likely to graduate from college and more likely to pick our food, clean our clothes and cook our restaurant meals?

There is no turning back for either the governor or the legislature on reparations. Doing nothing would be worse than never studying reparations at all. Defining meaningful and achievable reparations for the descendants of Black people once enslaved is the next journey for California, whether we are ready for it or not.

Read the full article here

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Copyright © 2022 ONSWM News. Content posted on the Old North State Wealth News page was developed and produced by a third party news aggregation service. Old North State Wealth Management is not affiliated with the news aggregation service. The information presented is believed to be current. It should not be viewed as personalized investment advice. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors on the date the articles were published. The information presented is not an offer to buy or sell, or a solicitation of any offer to buy or sell, any of the securities discussed.