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Activists demand higher compensation from California task force to Black Americans

The Reparations Task Force, meeting on Saturday in Oakland, discussing a detailed plan for how restitution to Black state residents should be handled. (Photo via The New York Times)

Activists have urged California state to provide millions of dollars in compensation to American Black citizens as a means of apologizing for slavery and past injustices, rejecting the state reparations task force's proposal as inadequate.

The nine-member Reparations Task Force, established through state laws endorsed by Governor Gavin Newsom of the Democratic Party in 2020, has spent over 12 months on research while hosting sessions to listen to the public across the state. 

Their efforts have culminated in a comprehensive plan on how to address various instances of racist injustices through restitution.

The panel was receiving final feedback from citizens on Saturday while examining ultimate proposals to present to the California Assembly, which will subsequently determine whether to execute the actions and forward them to Newsom's office for endorsement.

The latest proposal came out earlier this week suggesting a total amount of $1.2 million dollars per person based on the average life expectancy.

The estimates include a loss of $2,352 for every individual annually who resides in California due to excessive policing in Black communities, a loss of $3,366 per individual annually for biased lending and zoning, a loss of $13,619 per individual annually for unfairness and prejudice in healthcare, and a loss of $77,000 per individual due to the devaluation and loss of Black-owned businesses.

Meanwhile, activists present at the gathering dismissed the current plan as insufficient.

Reverend Tony Pierce, an activist that addressed the audience spoke of the renowned pledge of "40 acres and a mule" made to ex-slaves.

"You know that the numbers should be equivocal to what an acre was back then. We were given 40 acres," said Pierce. "So, the equivocal number from the 1860s for 40 acres to today is $200 million for each and every African-American."

"$1.2 million is nowhere near enough. It should be starting at least $5 million like San Francisco," said a female activist at the gathering

"This million dollars we're hearing on the news is just inadequate and a further injustice if that's what this task force is going to recommend for Black Americans for 400-plus years and continuing of slavery and injustice that we have been forced to endure," she said. "To even throw a million dollars at us is just an injustice."

San Francisco is considering its own compensation plans at the community level, which consist of a suggestion to distribute $5 million to eligible Black inhabitants.

The report did not specify the expenses incurred by the state, but according to economists' approximations in March, the overall expenses due to the negative effects of housing and mass imprisonment could surpass $800 billion.

In addition to monetary considerations, the task force suggests a number of policy modifications to address racial bias, including an official apology from the California legislature and governor for past instances of slavery and anti-Black racism.

As per the latest Survey of Consumer Finances conducted by the Federal Reserve Board, the typical net worth of African American households in the US is $24,100, while it is $188,200 for white households.

A nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California report revealed that in California, Black families earn 60 cents for every dollar earned by white families. Nearly 6.5 percent of California residents, roughly 2.5 million, identify as Black or African American.

Other cities across the country have also moved forward with reparations proposals. Authorities in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, authorized $10 million in reparations as housing allowances in 2021. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has also expressed support for reparations that could offer several million dollars. 

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