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California passes law to study paying reparations to Black Americans

Slaves

(Photo credit: Shutterstock.com / Everett Historical)

California has become the first state in the nation to pass a law that would study and create proposals for slave reparations.

On Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 3121, which will force the state to examine the history of racism in America and the systemic effects of slavery, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The brutal act of slavery began in America in 1619 and continued until it was abolished by the 13th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution in 1865. White slave owners from the South would take the Black people they owned and force them to work in the gold mines in the 1840s. California would enter the Union as a free state in 1850, but slave owners found loopholes that allowed them to continue the practice.

Free Blacks were promised reparations in the form of 40 acres and two mules as part of Special Field Orders No. 15, proclaimed by Union General William Sherman following the Civil War. However, President Andrew Johnson denied the transfer of assets to freed slaves, and that decision, along with Jim Crow laws, redlining and violence against successful Black communities, would have a ripple effect on Black Americans for generations after slavery.

In terms of economics, White households in the United States currently have an average net worth of $171,000 compared to $17,150 for Black households, according to “Examining the Black-White Wealth Gap” a study conducted by The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

The California task force would study slave reparations, but it does not determine how funding would be distributed or who would receive the payments. Another bill would need to be signed by California’s Legislature to approve payments.