“Who are you if you aren’t us?”: A groundbreaking insider seeking compensation for black Californians | California


Dawn Basciano’s ancestors arrived in Coloma five generations ago. CaliforniaAs enslaved people, another family in Missouri was forced to leave the enslaved toddler’s son behind.

Their ancestors, Nancy and Peter Gooch, were released in 1850, when California joined the union as a free state, and 20 years later their son and his family joined them on fertile farmlands northeast of Sacramento. I was able to. Their west trip was funded by Nancy’s sweat and efforts to grow and sell fruits, repair clothes, and cook for local miners.

Nancy and her descendants continued to buy more than 400 acres of lush farmland in Coloma. But what should have been a victorious story instead ended up as a story too familiar to formerly enslaved black Americans across the United States. California occupied most of the land in the guise of expropriation to build a state park, and families never received compensation alone.

“We have been denied the financial security and wealth associated with land ownership,” Baschano said. Nancy’s grandson and Baschano’s great-grandfather, Parry Monroe, spent the rest of his life in mourning the loss.

Currently, the stories of Baschano’s family and others are being considered by the California Compensation Task Force. For the first time in the country, the Commission has the difficulty and precedent of recommending compensation for black Californians, especially black Californians descendants of enslaved people, whether financial or policy-based. I’m working on a job that isn’t there.

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, who created the legislation that formed the task force, said California needs to pave the way for the troublesome topic of reparations, which is a federal issue. tried When We’re screwed Settle for decades.

“I have come to understand very clearly that California has the ability and power to do that,” she said at a hearing in June. “And who, if not us?”

The Task Force was formed in 2020 after approving the legislature required by the Legislature and Governor of California, Gavin Newsom. Research and development of compensation suggestion. Since then, a nine-member task force consisting of civil rights leaders, lawyers, lawmakers and scholars has been collecting evidence, listening to expert testimony, and aiming to submit recommendations to Congress next summer. I’ve spent several months holding public meetings and reviewing proposals. ..

The Task Force is tackling this vast challenge with the knowledge that the historical injustices suffered by slavery descendants are deep, systematic and difficult to quantify.

“Financial, educational, social and judicial injustices continue,” Weber said in June. “We need to be honest and candid, understand what we need to do in California, and be proactive in setting an example for other countries on how to start thinking about ourselves. . “

Looking back on history

California’s unique history of slavery and its aftermath has made tackling reparations a particularly complex task.

California joined the union as a free state in 1850, 11 years before the civil war, but many were enslaved to the hills of the Sierra Nevada during the gold rush of the years before becoming a state. Brought people. The state constitution declared that “neither slavery nor voluntary slavery would be tolerated unless there was a punishment for the crime,” but the legislature passed the Fugitive Slavery Act in 1852, before California became a free state. Allowed people to be brought to California. Will be returned to the south.

In one case that extended to the State Supreme Court, slave owners took a man, Archie Lee, to California after the state system and after the runaway slave law expired... However, the court argued that the slave owner should not be deprived of his personal property because he is “young and ignorant” of California law, and Stacy Smith, a professor of history at Oregon State University. Testified at a public task force meeting in September.

Shirley Weber, now Secretary of State of California, wrote a law to form a task force. Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Other experts testified about years of discrimination after the abolition of slavery, from environmental racism to the history of the state’s redlining. Housing practices have led to discrimination in schools. They also testified about the big move when millions of black Americans fled South and Jim Crow to places like California in hopes of a better life, but instead homeowners sell to blacks. Those who have found “structural barriers to exclusion” such as restrictive housing contracts that have forbidden are Isabel Wilkerson, author of “The Warmth of the Other Sun: The Spectacular Story of America’s Great Movement.” Carson said.

“The caste system has tracked immigrants wherever they go and has become a national phenomenon, not just a southern phenomenon,” she testified. Black Californians also faced rampant racism in the communities they tried to settle in. Wilkerson says WWII veteran Emory Hestus Holmes buys a three-bedroom home for his family in Pacoima, California in 1959, after neighbors move them away. We talked about how to lead a relentless harassment campaign. They always made prank calls, threw rocks through the windows, burned crosses on the lawn, and spray-painted the garage. “Black cancer lives here, don’t spread it.”

Injustice “cannot be quantified”

Early in the process, the Task Force considered other examples of reparations programs around the world. Germany paid $ 89 billion in compensation for Holocaust victims, and the United States paid $ 20,000 each to 82,219 Japanese Americans who were illegally imprisoned during World War II. In 2015, the United States approved payments of up to $ 10,000 per day (a total of $ 4.4 million each) to dozens of hostages taken hostage in Iran in 1979. Kirsten Mullen, co-author of FromHere to Equality, told the Task Force. According to the same calculation, one black American who endured for 10 years under Jim Crow would pay $ 36.5 million.

But the challenge before this task force was that many of the injustices and opportunities afflicted by black Americans were “unquantifiable,” Weber said at a September meeting.

Weber’s father was a copyhold in Hope, Arkansas, and he had to flee to California after trying to organize a fairer wage. His community, a descendant of enslaved people, was terrified and submissive after numerous racial riots that struck the country. “We can’t quantify the lack of education of his father and the negative experience that his father was trying to survive for himself and his family,” Weber said. “OK, in terms of opening up this particular society, what must we do in a way that really strives to create opportunities not only for the people here, but for the next generation as well. Isn’t it?

Weber added: “You can’t buy it for $ 20,000.”

The scale of fraud assessed by the Commission is almost unthinkable. Given only the discrimination between stolen land and housing, black Americans were denied the greatest source of family wealth today – homeowner Wilkerson testified. This family inheritance and generational wealth robbery created a wealth gap between black and white Americans. Some studies It will take 228 years to close.

State Senator Steven Bradford, a member of the Commission Studying Indemnity.
State Senator Steven Bradford, a member of the Commission Studying Indemnity. Photo: Irfan Khan / AP

The loss was enormous for Dawn Basciano’s family. Not only did they lose most of the farmland on the father’s side, but they also lost the land that would have provided stable employment, money and heritage to the extended family, as well as the fourth on the mother’s side. Her great-grandmother was also deprived of her property when she unfairly robbed her of her brother’s death, and the state auctioned a band of property owned by the state downtown Sacramento. He pretended that he had no living heirs or descendants.

“What does the compensation look like? There are many,” Baschano said. “I feel guilty about the pain I feel, but that’s true. It resonates with me. This is my family. These are told and re-told stories. Yes, it hurts. How do you fix it? How do you correct a very systematic mistake? “

Basciano pointed out that there are hundreds of thousands of families with stories like her. In September, Newsom signed a law to return lucrative seaside real estate in Manhattan Beach, California. 1920s blues house due to land expropriation.. The Manhattan Beach City Council voted against the issuance of a symbolic proclamation to apologize to Bruce, expressing concern that the city would be held liable for future proceedings.

While no Task Force recommendations are binding, Weber becomes bold with their proposals, including a universal kindergarten for all children, to help address education and childcare inequality. I urged the members to do so. Other witnesses and experts suggest monetary reparations, low interest loans, public apologies, compensation for stolen land, return of historically stolen land, and ways for slavery descendants to attend college for free. Did.

The Task Force will continue to meet in the New Year. Weber admitted that what the body came up with was probably just the beginning.

“The challenges of this 400 years will not be solved in 400 days,” Weber said. “To do that, we need more than that, and we need a commitment from California, the world’s fifth-largest economy.”

“Who are you if you aren’t us?”: A groundbreaking insider seeking compensation for black Californians | California

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