California Passes a New Law to Consider Reparations for Slavery

On Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation to launch a nine-member task force to study slavery and explore possible routes for reparations for descendants of slaves.

“As a nation, we can only truly thrive when every one of us has the opportunity to thrive. Our painful history of slavery has evolved into structural racism and bias built into and permeating throughout our democratic and economic institutions,” said Newsom in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “California’s rich diversity is our greatest asset, and we won’t turn away from this moment to make right the discrimination and disadvantages that Black Californians and people of color still face. While there is still so much work to do to unravel this legacy, these pieces of legislation are important steps in the right direction to building a more inclusive and equitable future for all.”

“California has come to terms with many of its issues, but it has yet to come to terms with its role in slavery,” said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a Democrat who authored the bill. “We’re talking about really addressing the issues of justice and fairness in this country that we have to address.”

The new body will be tasked to determine who receives what type of compensation for slavery while having the power to request state Legislature to grant a formal apology “for the perpetration of gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity on African slaves and their descendants” and even the repealing of laws that disproportionately affect African-Americans. In addition, the group will study systemic racism and how the reverberations from slavery created racial disparities in incarceration, unemployment, wealth, housing, health care, and education.

Newsom signed two more legislation on Wednesday in efforts to address racial injustice, with one bill aiming “to eliminate discrimination in jury selection” and the other to prohibit “use of race, ethnicity, or national origin to seek or obtain convictions or impose sentences” in the court system.

How demeaning to the black community are reparations. Because of an injustice 250 years old, everyone else decides they need money from everyone else based on the disgraceful assumption African-Americans can’t find success on their own. The humiliating message sent that the black community needs money from white people would only create further animosity, reigniting a White Savior narrative. Reparations, even For African-Americans who have financial success but have descended from slaves, would be nothing more than a symbol of imaginary shortcomings, insolently suggesting the black community failed and cannot succeed without everyone else’s money.

Foundationally, America rewards ambition and entrepreneurship as the very essence of the American Dream. There is no promise of easy in the American Dream, only that it can be achieved. Spirits of aspiration and persistence towards greater fueled prosperity unmatched in human history. Such emphasis on individualism discourages hand-outs and reliance on the government for basic needs. Without royalty or institutional forms of familial nobility, America hopes to present all citizens the liberty to chase what they define as happiness, regardless of birth position.

Reparations cut exactly against this. The argument for reparations falls nothing short of a white flag, deciding for the black community they can’t find success without relying on everyone else’s money because white privilege and institutional racism stifles African-Americans. Since privilege comes in boundless forms with infinite factors, white privilege cannot be proven nor defined and therefore doesn’t deserve to economically cripple those who supposedly have benefited from it.

Imagine the precedent this sets. Past sins that have lingering effects and privilege justify punishing those who never committed such sin or benefitted from imaginary privilege. If white privilege demands reparations, where is the justice for a white person who lost his job after diversity requirements forced him out or Affirmative Action, the only real form of institutional racism, cost a white student admission to their dream school, since his spot went to a member of a minority who didn’t even meet the requirements of the school?

Above all, to pretend a mere apology and a check in the mail could erase centuries’ worth of sin should be insulting to anyone who understands the horror that slavery brought upon this nation. Forcing people who never engaged in owning slaves and almost certainly disapprove of it to pay those who never endured slavery rectifies nothing. Happiness does not correlate with money. We do not get to pay our way out of facing our history head-on.

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  1. Tyler Webster October 6, 2020

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