California is First State to Adopt Law Establishing Path to Reparations for Black People and Descendants of Slaves

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, speaks at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., on June 10. Rich Pedroncelli / AP file

California on Wednesday became the first state to adopt a law paving the way for Black residents and descendants of slaves to receive reparation payments.

The legislation, which was authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a Democrat representing San Diego who is chair of California’s Legislative Black Caucus, does not commit to any specific payment. Instead, it establishes a nine-person task force that will study the impact of slavery on Black people in California and recommend to the Legislature what kind of compensation should be provided, who should receive it and what form it will take.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the law Wednesday afternoon.

“After watching last night’s debate, this signing can’t come too soon,” he said during a videoconference with lawmakers and other stakeholders, including the rapper Ice Cube, who¬†used his celebrity to champion the bill.

“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,” Newsom said in a statement.

In a year filled with protests and calls for racial reckoning, the law received bipartisan support in the Legislature. Advocates hope that it will become a model for other states and that it will make amends not just for slavery, but also for some of the institutional practices that continue to disproportionately affect Black people in the U.S.

“This is an extremely important time for all of us,” Weber said Wednesday. “California tries to lead the way in terms of civil rights, and we have a responsibility to do that.”

Weber, who was born in Arkansas, said she and her family relocated to California because they saw “tremendous opportunity.” But, she added, California has more work to do to acknowledge its history with race and inequality.

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SOURCE: NBC News, Alicia Victoria Lozano