African Americans have suffered and persevered through centuries of slavery, segregation, disenfranchisement, economic and educational discrimination, wealth inequality, medical racism, and police violence. Because of this mistreatment, Black Americans are long overdue for and deserve to be made whole through robust reparations. Reparations can be an effective tool in resolving the egregious harms that Black Americans continue to suffer due to the continued effect of institutionalized racism.
Reparations refer to numerous measures to redress violations of human rights by providing a range of material and symbolic benefits to victims, their families, descendants, and affected communities. They must also be adequate, prompt and proportional to the gravity of the violations and the harm suffered. Reparations have been used by many governments, including the U.S. government, to address the egregious harms they committed against targeted communities. The most well-known form of reparations is compensation; however, the term reparations is not just limited to compensation. Reparations encompass restitution of civil and political rights, physical rehabilitation, granting access to land, housing, health care or education, which can all be achieved at the policy level.
On September 30, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 3121, forming a first-in-the-nation, California Reparations Task Force. The purpose of the Task Force is to study and develop reparation proposals for the California Legislature that would address its legacy of discriminatory policies against Black Californians. The Task Force is tasked with providing a report as a guide for legislators to use when introducing and passing legislation that would provide reparations to Black Californians.
In June 2022, the Task Force released their interim report which proposes numerous recommendations for reparations, including compensation, rehabilitation, and restitution for African Americans, with special consideration to those who are descendants of persons enslaved in the U.S. The interim report focuses on several areas of systemic and institutional racism at the federal, state, and local levels, such as within the health care system, the social and welfare systems, the legal system, and the wealth gap. Before July 1, 2023, the Task Force will issue a final report on recommendations for reparations before the Task Force ends, which was originally set for July 1, 2023, but was extended to July 1, 2024.
To uplift and acknowledge the release of the Task Force’s interim report, NHeLP is producing a series of issue briefs recognizing the numerous recommendations and the ways that California is working to shift towards a more equitable future and commenting on ways it can do more to dismantle anti-Black health policies and practices. This is the first issue brief of the series.