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California Settles Lineage-Based Reparations Debate

California's state legislature took the first step Tuesday by announcing that descendants of those enslaved in the US will be the only participants eligible for a reparative claim.

The California task force on reparations has settled the claim of who is eligible to receive reparations from the US and its private institutions for crimes committed during the Antebellum Holocaust and the subsequent anti-Black socio-economic actions that followed.

California’s state legislature took the first step Tuesday by announcing that descendants of those enslaved in the US will be the only participants eligible for a reparative claim.

The vote was split 5-4 in favor for defining eligibility for those who are actually descended from those enslaved on the plantations in the American south, other Black Californians will not be eligible as a result.

Eligibility being “determined by an individual being an African American descendant of a chattel enslaved person or the descendant of a free Black person living in the US prior to the end of the 19th century,” the motion read.

Kamilah Moore, task force chairperson said any consideration that would allow every Black person in the state including immigrants would potentially aggrieve the country’s actual victims of slavery.

“That is going to aggrieve the victims of the institution of slavery, which are the direct descendants of the enslaved people in the United States,” she said. “It goes against the spirit of the law as written.”

Kamilah Moore

Genealogist also chimed in, alluding to the argument that it would be impossible to trace the lineage of a Black individual to the slavery.

However, Evelyn McDowell who is chairwoman of the Sons & Daughters of the United States Middle Passage said that it is “absolutely possible” for Black Californians to trace their lineage by determining the birth year of a great or great-great grandparent in the South, while other genealogist insisted that the Black populace enlist the aide of state institutions to help with the costly and undoubtedly time consuming research process.

McDowell also contends that this proof of lineage would be sufficient for claim of eligibility.

Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of UC Berkeley’s law school insisted that using a “race-neutral” method like lineage will make the upcoming proposals less likely to be struck down in court.

The vote which took place over a virtual proceeding allowed for callers to voice their opinions, prompting a Chicago activist named Arthur Ward who stated that he was a Foundational Black American voiced his frustration with how long the process has taken to even get this far.

“When it comes to some sort of justice, some kind of recompense, we are supposed to step to the back of the line and allow Caribbeans and Africans to be prioritized,” Ward said. “Taking this long to decide something that should not even be a question in the first place is an insult.”

Many committee members have begun serious discussions over how to best distribute cash payments, though some members believe that California has no legal obligation to pay a reparations claim to FBA’s, committee members in favor of payments reiterated that both California statewide, local governments, and private institutions were complicit in stripping Black people of their wages and property, thus making the state and its localities liable.

The task force is expected to release a reparations proposal in June 2023 along with recommendations for the California state legislature.

Barrington Williams, B1Daily

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