Survey: Most Californians Do Not Support Reparations For Black Residents

The state reparations task force is expected soon to submit its final recommendations to the governor and lawmakers.

Most Californians are not behind reparations to eligible Black American residents even though they believe racial discrimination and the legacy of slavery have negatively impacted the lives of Black people, according to a new study from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), a nonpartisan think tank.

PPIC released the report on Monday (June 5) as a state Reparations Task Force is expected to submit its recommendations to the California Legislature on how the state should compensate qualified Black Californians for decades of racial discrimination.

The think tank’s survey is part of a larger statewide survey conducted with more than 1,500 Californians between May 17-24. It examines how residents view racism and the legacy of slavery as it applies to reparations. The survey does not examine attitudes about cash payments, which the authors said has received wide media coverage even though exact dollar amounts are undetermined.

About 70 percent of those surveyed think that racial and ethnic discrimination contribute to economic inequality (32 percent a great deal, 39 percent a fair amount). And 53 percent said the legacy of slavery affects the position of Black people in American society today (23 percent a great deal, 30 percent a fair amount).

But less than half of them – 43 percent – said they support having a state task force seek reparations.

The nine-member Reparations Task Force, created through legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020, voted May 6 to recommend that state lawmakers provide billions of dollars in compensation payments to qualified Black residents and to issue a formal apology for slavery. Its recommendations are intended to offer guidance to Newsom and lawmakers in their debate of the issues toward making a final decision.

Meanwhile, in January, San Francisco’s reparations committee recommended paying qualified Black residents $5 million as compensation for generations of systemic racial discrimination.

California Reparations Task Force Calls For Billions In Payments, But It’s Not So Simple

In general, the survey found that certain groups had favorable views on reparations: Democrats (58 percent), Black Americans (65 percent), immigrant residents (56 percent), Latinos (53 percent), 18-to-34 year-olds (52 percent), and residents with annual household incomes below $40,000 (52 percent).

Reparations can take different forms, ranging from housing vouchers, academic scholarships and funding to end health disparities. Direct cash payments are far more controversial.

After setting aside racial politics, cash payments face a big hurdle. Economists pegged the price tag for payments at upwards of $800 billion – which amounts to more than 2.5 times the state’s $300 billion annual budget.

Reparations opponents point out that California was not a slave state. But although California entered the union as a free state in 1850, the early state government supported slavery, according to the task force’s interim report.

California Reparations Task Force Releases Lengthy Interim Report Detailing Impact of Slavery

An estimated 1,500 enslaved African Americans lived in the state in 1852, working under dangerous conditions and subjected to violence. In that year, California passed and enacted a harsher version of the federal fugitive slave law, which mandated the return of escaped slaves to their owners. After slavery ended, Black Californians endured many decades of discrimination in housing, education, law enforcement and other areas.

The Task Force is scheduled to submit its final recommendations to the California State Legislature by June 30.

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