California’s reparations board has been told to increase the amount given to each black resident from $5 million to $7.6 million – as one economist said the proposed $800 billion budget was not enough.
The figures were mooted as the Golden State’s reparations committee held a hearing in Sacramento on Wednesday – their 13th since launching in June 2021.
The group have until July 1 to provide their complete set of recommendations.
Wednesday’s hearing was the first since San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors began debating 111 preliminary recommendations issued by their own reparations panel – the most headline-grabbing of which included $5 million per black person; guaranteed income of at least $97,000; houses for $1 and personal debt forgiveness for qualifying individuals.
In Sacramento, the state committee was urged not to be influenced by San Francisco’s recommendations – which they felt were insufficient.
Reverend Tony Pierce gave a passionate speech in Sacramento on Wednesday insisting $5 million per black resident was not enough for reparations
Another black resident agreed, arguing $7.6 million per person would be more appropriate
‘I believe that $5 million in reparations is too little for the work that foundational black Americans have done for this country and as well for other countries,’ one speaker said.
‘I believe that $7.6 million is a number that can be used very wisely in our foundational black American communities.’
Foundational black Americans are descendants of black people who were enslaved in the U.S.
Another speaker, Reverend Tony Pierce, agreed that $5 million was not enough, arguing that a large percentage would be lost in taxes.
‘Where’s the money? Where’s the cash? Where’s the check?’ he asked, in a passionate address.
‘$5 million, San Francisco’s already made a move. $5 million is nothing, and I’ll tell you why.’
He said $5 million spread over 50 years would only amount to $100,000 year, and then with taxes, ‘you’ll be lucky if you end up with $40,000 a year.’
‘Where’s the money?’ he concluded with a raised voice.
Kamilah Moore, a reparatory justice scholar and an attorney, who chairs the task force, said they would not take a stance on how much money should be budgeted for reparations.
Task force Chair Kamilah Moore has stated she plans to be as ‘radical as possible’ when it comes to deciding who will receive reparations and how much
California State Senator Steven Bradford (left) and Dr. Cheryl Grills (right) also appear on the taskforce
Task force members Lisa Holder (left) and Donald K. Tamaki (right)
Task force members Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe (left) and Jovan Scott Lewis (right)
Reginald Jones Sawyer (left) and Reparations Task Force Vice Chair Dr. Amos C. Brown
Some economists have estimated that the cost may run to $800 billion for decades of over-policing, disproportionate incarceration and housing discrimination.
The sum is more than 2.5 times California’s $300 billion annual budget and does not include a recommended $1 million per older black resident for health disparities that have shortened their average life span.
Nor does the figure include compensating people for property unjustly taken by the government or devaluing black businesses – two other harms the task force says the state perpetuated.
Thomas Craemer, a public policy professor at the University of Connecticut, told the panel on Wednesday that they should not see the $800 billion figure as a limit, but rather concentrate on all aspects of discrimination – regardless of the cost.
‘All forms of discrimination should be considered in reparations,’ said Craemer, who is not involved in the deliberations.
‘The task force should feel free to go beyond our loss estimates, and determine what the right amount would be.’
Thomas Craemer, a public policy professor at the University of Connecticut, said he believed spending in excess of $800 billion could be justified
Any reparation plan would need to be approved by California’s legislature and signed off by the governor.
Several people who gave public comment on Wednesday spoke of the urgent need to pay black Americans for all that was taken from them.
‘My family came from the South because they were running for their lives, they were fearful of being lynched, just for voting,’ said Charlton Curry of Sacramento, who discusses reparations on his Big C Sports podcast.
‘Cash payments are necessary. Money talks.’
He pointed out that white people benefited from free U.S. government land through the 1862 Homestead Act, and Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II and Jewish Holocaust victims received reparations.
Critics pin their opposition partly on the fact that California was never a slave state and say current taxpayers should not be responsible for damage linked to events that germinated hundreds of years ago.
Bob Woodson, a prominent black conservative, calls reparations impractical, controversial and counterproductive.
‘No amount of money could ever ‘make right’ the evil of slavery, and it is insulting to suggest that it could,’ he said in an email to The Associated Press.
He said black communities began to heal through faith and family, following slavery.
‘Some of these communities only began coming apart after we lost sight of these values, which also hold the key to these communities’ restoration,’ he said.
Financial redress is just one part of the package being considered.
Other proposals include paying incarcerated inmates market value for their labor, establishing free wellness centers and planting more trees in black communities, banning cash bail, and adopting a K-12 black studies curriculum.
Reparations talks are stalled at the federal level.
Kamala Harris, the vice president, on Wednesday said from Ghana that she and President Joe Biden support a reparations study, but the president has so far sidestepped calls from advocates to create a federal commission.