Federal and state governments, including in California, failed to protect Black artists, culture-makers and media-makers from discrimination and simultaneously promoted discriminatory narratives, according to a new task force report.
State governments memorialized the Confederacy as just and heroic through monument building while suppressing the nation’s history of racism and slavery, said the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans.
Government actions at every level across the country, including California, have directly segregated and discriminated against African Americans at work, the group said in its interim report issued to state legislators Wednesday.
After intensive research, the task force reached those conclusions and made concrete recommendations to compensate those affected.
Separate from the federal proposal pushed by Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, the report surveyed ongoing and compounding harms experienced by African Americans because of slavery. It also studied the lingering effects the slave trade had on America.
The report includes a set of preliminary recommendations for policies that legislatures in the Golden State could adopt to remedy the harms.
Officials plan to release a final report next year.
“Federal and state policies like affirmative action produced mixed results and were short-lived,” task force members wrote in the report. “African Americans continue to face employment discrimination today in the country and California.”
They determined that the American government at all levels, including in California, has historically criminalized African Americans for social control and maintaining an economy based on exploited Black labor.
“This criminalization is an enduring badge of slavery and has contributed to the over-policing of Black neighborhoods, the school to prison pipeline, the mass incarceration of African Americans, a refusal to accept African Americans as victims, and other inequities in nearly every corner of the American and California legal systems,” the report stated. “As a result, the American and California criminal justice system physically harms, imprisons, and kills African Americans more than other racial groups relative to their percentage of the population.
“The government actions described in this report have had a devastating effect on the health of African Americans in the country and California,” the authors wrote. “Compared to white Americans, African Americans live shorter lives and are more likely to suffer and die from almost all diseases and medical conditions than white Americans.
“Researchers have linked these health outcomes in part to African Americans’ unrelenting experience of racism in our society. In addition to physical harm, African Americans experience psychological harm, which can profoundly undermine Black children’s emotional and physical well-being and academic success.”
The task force has recommended several remedies, including:
• Implement a detailed program of reparations for African Americans. • Develop and implement other policies, programs, and measures to close the racial wealth gap in California. • Provide funding, and technical assistance to Black-led and Black community-based land trusts to support wealth building and affordable housing. • Establish a cabinet-level secretary position over an African American/Freedmen Affairs Agency tasked with implementing the recommendations of this task force.
They said the agency would identify past harms, prevent future harm, and work with other state agencies and branches of California’s government to mitigate the wrongs.
The task force suggested policies to the governor and the legislature designed to compensate for the harms caused by the legacy of anti-Black discrimination and work to eliminate systemic racism that has developed because of the enslavement of African Americans in the United States.
The authors recommended that the agency include the following:
• A branch to process claims with the state and assist claimants in filing for eligibility. • A genealogy branch to support potential claimants with genealogical research and to confirm eligibility. • A reparations tribunal to adjudicate substantive claims for past harms. • An office of immediate relief to expedite claims. • A civic engagement branch to support ongoing political education on African American history and to support civic engagement among African American youth. • A freedmen education branch to offer free education and to facilitate the free tuition initiative between claimants and California schools. • A social services and family affairs branch to identify and mitigate how current and previous policies have damaged and destabilized Black families. • Services might include treatment for trauma and family healing services to strengthen the family unit, stress resiliency services, financial planning services, career planning, and civil and family court services. • A cultural affairs branch to restore African American cultural/historical sites; establish monuments; advocate for the removal of racist relics; support knowledge production and archival research; and provide support for African Americans in the entertainment industry, including identifying and removing barriers to advancement into leadership and decision-making positions in the arts, entertainment, and sports industries. • A legal affairs office to coordinate a range of free legal services, including criminal defense attorneys for criminal trials and parole hearings; free arbitration and mediation services; and to advocate for civil and criminal justice reforms. • A division of medical services for public and environmental health. • A business affairs office to provide ongoing education related to entrepreneurialism and financial literacy, offer business grants and establish public-private reparative justice-oriented partnerships.