On Wednesday, September 30th, California became the first state to create a law for Black residents and descendants of slaves to receive reparation payments.
"California tries to lead the way in terms of civil rights, and we have a responsibility to do that," said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who helped create the bill.
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber is a Democrat representing San Diego. She is also a chair of California’s Legislative Black Caucus.
The new law creates a nine-person task force that will study the impact of slavery on Black people in California in today’s world. The law will go on to come up with the proper kind of compensation that should be provided, and who should get the compensation and what form it should be provided in.
"After watching last night's debate, this signing can't come too soon," said Gov. Gavin Newsom who signed the law Wednesday afternoon.
Gov. Newsom feels very strongly about this law, he explains that, "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.”
This year has been filled with protests which led to the bipartisan support of the law in the legislature. Supporters hope that this will become a model for other states. It is important to try and make amends for the institutional practices of systemic racism that affect Black people every day.
"This is an extremely important time for all of us," said Weber.
The bill was constructed last year, meaning it was well before the death of George Floyd which gave rise to the national protests. Also, it was written before coronavirus, which showed how much a law like this was needed. Coronavirus showcased inequalities and injustices in the health care system, by making testing, treatment, and prevention less available.
In January of 1989, Representative John Conyers, Jr. proposed a bill to “acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.” (Source: Congress.gov, H.R.3745 - Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act)