As the Golden state inferno continues to engulf hundreds of thousands of acres, with thousands of small businesses boarded up indefinitely from the big bad bug, and power outages rolling from end-to-end, the state’s governor is focusing his efforts on slavery reparations. I kid you not.
Patting himself on the back, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 3121 into law this week, creating his promised nine-member task force to figure out if black people in California will get restitution for slavery. The governor crowed that the law could establish a “paradigm that we hope will be resonant all across the United States.”
Newsom also gave himself a heaping spoonful of credit by morosely explaining this proactive directive should have been written “decades ago.”
The newly minted law is the first of its kind, but a closer look showcases a mostly symbolic gesture.
The Bill To End Racial Injustice
The bill does not commit the state to make any sort of retribution. It only makes it law to form a committee that will research, debate, discuss, and make recommendations by June 2022. These recommendations will not be binding in any way, shape, or form. And the bill is not declarative of how, if any, reparations will be delivered – cash is not mentioned prominently – but job training, student loan forgiveness, and public works projects are listed. Symbolic.
And the task force? The mandated committee has until June 2021 to be created and seated at the table. It is to be in charge of researching slavery in California, ferreting out descendants, and working up a payment plan. But the history of slavery in California includes African slaves, indigenous or Native Americans, and multiracial peoples.
An art exhibit, California Bound, delves deep into the history of slavery in the state:
“The curators date the earliest presence of people of African descent in the region to the 1700s and 1800s. Spanish colonization of the Gulf of California, which relied on the labor of enslaved indigenous and African people since the 16th century, resulted in a multicultural landscape. Californios, who were either Mestizo (mixed European and Indigenous ancestry) or of mixed African and Indigenous ancestry. Among Los Angeles’s first settlers, the Pobladores who arrived from Mexico in 1781, more than half of 11 families were of African or part-African ancestry.”
Not even Ancestry.com could figure out who or what is of African descent at this point. And do we tag in Spain to help pay the freight? Or, even better, just blame Spain, send an invoice, and disband the task force?
A Mixed Bag Of Reaction For Newsom
The bill’s ceremonial signing gave Newsom a platform to pander to Californians whom he has greatly disappointed of late. Electric car drivers have limited access to electricity. Families have been evacuated, losing their homes. With another 200 people missing and, tragically, some 31 lives lost to wildfires, homeless people are still largely ignored, and the state debt has topped $1.5 trillion.
So, is Newsom serious about reparations or pandering to a progressive electorate? The Hollywood types seem ecstatic as rapper Ice Cube tweeted a thank you. But John Q. Public is less than thrilled, and one Twitter user, Dale (@coachdale07), warned, “Reparations will be the last straw for me. If this even looks possible, I will take my family to a new state.”
Is it possible? Yes. Probable? No, it simply isn’t feasible to determine who might qualify for payouts and then actually pay the reimbursements to the sure-to-be-long list. When reality clashes with ideology, it is more often the latter that crumbles under the weight.
Read more from Sarah Cowgill.