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State's black residents owed $569b, report says

By AI HEPING in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-12-05 10:00

Pedestrians travel along Hayes Street in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, California, on Nov 2, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

A California task force studying the long-term effects of slavery and racism on black residents in the state has estimated $569 billion in reparations are owed to relatives of black enslaved residents, according to a report.

The nine-member panel concluded that black Californians whose ancestors were in the US in the 19th century are due $223,200 each due to housing discrimination practices used from 1933 to 1977, The New York Times said.

"We are looking at reparations on a scale that is the largest since Reconstruction," the Times quoted Jovan Scott Lewis, one of the nine members of the Reparation Task Force, as saying. "That is why we must put forward a robust plan, with plenty of options." Lewis is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

The task force will publish a report with the final dollar amounts next year. The task force was created by legislation by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020, and the potential payouts represent the largest reparations effort in recent history.

The task force has been conducting interviews and compiling data for months. Any recommendations it makes to the state are nonbinding. The panel is also evaluating how reparations could be distributed, whether that is through education, healthcare or housing grants, or cash payments.

The California legislature must decide what to do with the recommendations and whether to distribute reparations.

California is the first US state to require its agencies to present a separate demographic category for descendants of enslaved people.

Economic gap

The task force looks to narrow the economic gap between white and black Californians. Nationally, black households have a median wealth of $24,100, compared with white households' median wealth of $188,200, according to the Federal Reserve Board Survey of Consumer Finances.

Those eligible for the reparations, the task force said in a report in March, would be descendants of enslaved African Americans or of a "free black person living in the United States prior to the end of the 19th century".

Only those who can prove that they fit those categories will be eligible for the reparations. California has an estimated 2.6 million black residents, about 2 million of whom are descendants of slaves.

The five areas identified by the team (housing discrimination, mass incarceration, unjust property seizures, devaluation of black businesses and healthcare) are the factors it is taking into account when determining the reparations.

The government often offered black homeowners less than what they paid to buy their houses and forced them out, the Times reported.

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