When I was young and naive, I would think about beautiful beaches, fabulous sunglasses, and palm tree-lined streets in fantastic Malibu when I would daydream about California.
When I think about California now, I think about none of those things. However, what does often come up when I watch the news is stories about the teenager that ran over a mother and baby or stories about mayors pledging to eradicate transgender homelessness.
The latest story is that of the publishing of the groundbreaking reparations report that Governor Gavin Newsom commissioned in the aftermath of the George Floyd riots.
The report includes various recommendations for reparations, including allowing incarcerated people to vote in elections. It also mentions compensation to “…individuals who have been deprived of rightful profits for their artistic, creative, athletic, and intellectual work.”
Whatever that means.
Naturally, Governor Newsom’s office is in the process of doing some victory laps, patting themselves on the back for a job well done. A spokesperson for the Governor’s office said:
“Once again, California is leading the nation, in a bipartisan way, on issues of racial justice and equity…”
Let’s take a look at some of the other things California is leading the way on:
Way to go, California!
Not a whole lot. His silence was noted rather vehemently in a Newsweek opinion article authored by Jason Nichols, senior lecturer in the African American Studies Department at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Mr. Nichols had some interesting comments. Part of his anger over the President’s silence surrounds the fact that he won the presidency thanks to black voters.
“President Biden won the nomination by capturing South Carolina, a state which owes its sizable black population to the fact that the port of Charleston was the largest slave port in the country.”
While President Biden did win the Democratic Presidential nomination in South Carolina, it’s probably also important to note that he didn’t win South Carolina in the general election.
Nichols goes on to say about Georgia:
“The state with the second largest enslaved population at the start of the Civil War was Georgia, another state whose black population was pivotal in driving Biden to victory.”
If you live under a rock somewhere, a phrase to describe how the election went down in Georgia would be by a hair—as in President Biden won by a hair; by 11,779 votes.
Mr. Nichols does reserve some praise for California and Governor Newsom:
“It took Gavin Newsom…to have the courageous audacity to study reparations…”
There is a bit of controversy over why President Biden isn’t more outspoken in support of reparations. This is because of a little bit of legislation called H.R. 40, aptly numbered as a head nod to “40 acres and a mule” promised to freed slaves.
H.R. 40 passed the House Judiciary Committee last year. On the campaign trail, then-candidate Biden mentioned support for something like H.R. 40.
But what is H.R. 40? I can tell you what it’s not; reparations. It officially commissions a study at the federal level on the utility and ability to provide reparations, and a “national apology.”
The likelihood of this legislation going any further is slim to null, partly due to a lack of support in the country. A Politico/Morning Consult poll found that only 38% of voters support a study on reparations.
One of the loudest opponents, Utah Congressman Burgess Owens, a black Republican, has equated reparations to ‘wealth distribution’ and ‘socialism.’ He goes on to say:
“It is impractical and a non-starter for the United States to pay reparations.”
The California reparations report wasn’t devoid of controversy among supporters of reparations. One most significant point of contention is who should be included in the receipt of reparations.
Some argue all black people in America should be eligible for reparations, regardless of where they came from or their background. Others say it should be limited to black Americans who are descendants of slaves.
Michael Harriot wrote a top 10 reasons against descendant-based reparations on the National African-American Reparations Commission (NAARC). My favorite two reasons were #10 and #9.
The #10 reason was that it is ‘based on white history.’ Mr. Harriot argues that the California study “rests on the tenuous definition of ‘descendant’ and the actual definition of African-American, which doesn’t actually exist because race is just something white people made up.”
The #9 reason is due to ‘white math.’ Harriot argues that reparations would be an economic stimulus, which is irrationally opposed due to ‘white math.’
This question, of course, is highly charged.
“Even during the era of slavery, most white people owned no slaves. Are their descendants supposed to pay for the descendants of those that did?”
How can we all identify (to use an en vogue term) as one nation if we are paying firms, committees, and drafting legislation meant only to divide us into groups?
Rick Callender, President of The California Hawaii State Conference NAACP in Sacramento California, said of the report:
“As California goes, so goes the nation.”
We shall see.
California’s report was only the first step. A second report is due next July that will attempt to tackle the nuts and bolts – like who will receive reparations and how much.
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