“We shouldn’t necessarily punish people for the harms they endured, but for not being able to withstand the state-sanctioned atrocity,” said Moore, who is a reparatory justice scholar and attorney.
The task force also discussed and preliminarily approved recommending the state close as many as 10 state prisons, but it debated what should be done with the sites. The panel discussed recommending selling or leasing the properties or using the spaces as teaching or training locations.
A full list of the task force’s several dozen “preliminary recommendations for future deliberation” was published on the Department of Justice’s website.
Other recommendations include allowing incarcerated prisoners to vote and receive a fair market wage for work, making zero-interest loans available to Black-owned businesses and homebuyers, and providing college scholarships to Black high school graduates.
Any reparations program would need to be enacted by the Legislature and approved by the governor.
The meetings Friday and Saturday at San Diego State were the first of in 2023 and the 12th public hearings since Secretary of State Shirley Weber wrote the legislation creating the panel when she was an Assemblymember.
Weber attended the meeting Friday morning and received a standing ovation from about 100 people in attendance. She urged task force members to push their recommendations forward and said she hoped the task force’s work would become a model for a national effort of reparations.
“It’s like a baby; if you don’t get it out, it’s not going to live,” Weber said. “Make sure your recommendations will really change the experience and life for African Americans. We don’t need token things … Make sure your recommendations are going to have a lasting impact.”
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, on Jan. 24 reintroduced federal reparations legislation that would establish a commission to consider proposals for reparations for African American descendants of slavery.
A similar bill to create a national commission to study reparations for Black Americans has been introduced in Congress in various forms over the last three decades. The last bill advanced out of the House judiciary committee for the first time last year but did not go further.
On Friday and Saturday, task force members also heard about how current U.S. tax law benefits the wealthiest members of society, the large wealth gap between Black and white citizens, and about various reparations efforts in other cities and counties.
The task force’s nearly 500-page interim report presents national data showing that in 2017, 3.5% of all U.S. businesses were Black-owned, while 81% were owned by whites.
The median Black household net worth in 2019 was $24,100, less than 13% of the median net worth of white households at $188,200. State-by-state data was not available.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria also spoke Friday and applauded the task force. He shared his personal experiences as the first person of color elected as the city’s mayor. Gloria is Latino, Native American and Filipino.
One public commenter criticized Gloria for not yet initiating a San Diego reparations task force like other cities, such as San Francisco, Berkeley, Sacramento, Oakland, Hayward, Vallejo, Culver City and Los Angeles, as well as the counties of Alameda, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The next set of state public hearings will be on March 3 and 4 in Sacramento. Agenda items will be posted on the Department of Justice’s website when available.