Roy Gilbert

Explaining the Reparations Effort

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber at the Capitol in Sacramento in 2019.Credit…Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press This week, California set out on a fraught, complicated mission that no other state has attempted: come up with proposals to provide reparations to Black Californians for slavery and centuries of systemic discrimination and inequality .

A group of nine politicians, scholars and lawyers appointed to a task force will study the issue as part of a two-year process . Their first meeting was Tuesday.

As a state lawmaker, Shirley Weber, who is now California’s secretary of state , spearheaded the effort to begin the process. I spoke with Weber on Wednesday about the task force, as well as about voting rights. Here is our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

You spoke movingly yesterday to introduce the task force. One of the things you said was that you had been asked: “Why should California take this on when it wasn’t part of the Confederacy?” Can you expand on that a bit?

When I was in the Assembly, Gov. Jerry Brown would always talk about the first governor of California — the statements he made, his actions. And that sparked me to carefully look at the history of California.

California is a place my parents escaped to from Hope, Ark . It was a better place to go, but there’s no panacea. There’s no perfect California.

Some of it may not have been written down, but there were things: Black people couldn’t get bank loans. There was redlining. You start to […]

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