California’s reparations push could give black residents hundreds of thousands of dollars — here’s what they say they’ll do with it

Keisha Brown, 49, is married with five children and lives in a Bay Area suburb. Even with two incomes, she says, she and her family are struggling.

The rent keeps going up. They must use credit cards. The house they rent in Antioch, California, is now worth around $700,000. That’s more than Brown, who works in human resources, and her husband, a bus driver, could buy.

Keisha Brown

(Courtesy of Keisha Brown)

So if California became the first state in the nation to eventually provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in reparations to its eligible black residents, it would mean a significant boost for Brown and his family.

“Sure [reparations] would mean better for our children,” Brown said. “It would provide some stability and we might have something to leave for our children. They won’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul like we had to.

For California’s roughly 1.8 million black residents who are descendants of slaves, reparations could allow many of them to finally buy homes, pay off student loans, try to build wealth generation and more. MarketWatch spoke with Brown and other Black Californians, who are at different stages of their lives, and they all said the repairs would help them in some way.

Economic consultants for the State Reparations Task Force — established by law and the first of its kind at the state level — recently presented calculations for some scenarios that include numbers in the hundreds of dollars. thousands of dollars in reparations for every California resident who can prove they are descended from a slave.

Among these numbers:

  • Reparations based on national average racial wealth gap: $358,293.

  • Remedies based on the value of certain state-level harms: $223,239 for housing discrimination and redlining; $124,678 for disproportionate mass incarceration; $127,226 per year of life expectancy for damage to health due to health care disparities and other factors.

  • Reparations based on a hybrid model that would consider both the national racial wealth gap and state-level harms: The task force would determine over what percentage of the amount of the national racial wealth gap California should “make a down payment”.

Additional dollar figures may be coming. Task Force Chair Kamilah Moore told MarketWatch that “there could be even more requests from economic consultants to come up with new monetary remedies” by mid-December, when the task force is due to hold its next public meeting in Oakland.

See: Landmark report lays out case for compensating descendants of slaves in California

The task force released its first report over the summer, and it has until next June to submit its second and final report to the state legislature. State lawmakers will consider the task force’s recommendations and may eventually draft legislation on the type and amount of reparations black residents should receive.

“A Beginning” and “A Game Changer”

For Zion Harris, a dancer and choreographer based in Los Angeles, hundreds of thousands of dollars would “definitely be a start. I am still very young,” he said.

Zion Harris

(Courtesy of Zion Harris)

The 22-year-old, the youngest of five children who never knew his father, said “there was a lot of struggle in my family”, including when his mother, a bus driver, had a stroke and aneurysm over a decade ago. She couldn’t work for a few months and they lost their family home in Hercules, California.

Harris said the money from the repairs could help her buy a car and a house, among other things.

He said it was important to him as a gay, black man to share his creativity with the world, but he struggled financially despite spending hours on his craft. He said he earned around $60,000 last year appearing in a Coach commercial with Megan thee Stallion, dancing at the Grammys with Lil Nas X and appearing in music videos for Christina Aguilera, Nicki Minaj and other artists.

Since August, Harris has been a dancer on reggaeton star Daddy Yankee’s World Tour and spoke to MarketWatch from Costa Rica. Booking the tour has helped him breathe, as it’s a regular job.

“From now on, I’m financially stable because I’m on tour,” he said.

Receiving reparations, Harris added, “would help kick-start more of what I’m trying to do in my career.”

Even those with established careers would get what they feel they deserve because of systemic racism.

Dante King, 46, a permanent resident of the Bay Area, teaches African American studies as a visiting professor at the University of California, San Francisco. He teaches a course at the Mayo Clinic and has worked in human resources doing work on diversity, equity and inclusion. He also self-published a book titled “The 400-Year Holocaust: White America’s Legal, Psychopathic, and Sociopathic Black Genocide – and the Revolt Against Critical Race Theory”.

Dante King

(Amy Osborne/Courtesy Dante King)

Reparations “could be a game-changer for people like me who still suffer from discrimination,” King said. The first in his family to go to university, he has doctoral debt and is no longer a landlord. He would use the money to pay off his loans and buy a house again. He also hopes to be able to leave a legacy for his nephew.

“It could change the lives of so many people I know – the previous four or five generations, the discrimination they faced even after slavery put them in the predicament they find themselves in,” said- he declared.

Black homeownership in the state in 2019 was 36.8%, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, compared to 63.2% for whites, 60.2% for Asians and 44, 1% for Latinos. And black families in California earn 60 cents for every dollar white families earn, according to an analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California earlier this year based on data from the American Community Survey. The PPIC cited factors such as disparities in education, employment opportunities and incarceration, as well as discrimination in the labor market.

Education and Eligibility

These disparities are why Gigi Crowder, executive director of the Contra Costa County Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is leading a campaign to establish a center in Contra Costa County in the Bay Area to to provide financial and wellness education to Black people.

Gigi Lightning

(Courtesy of Gigi Crowder)

Crowder, 60, said she would personally benefit from the repairs. She took out loans to help her two sons pay for their education, so she could use the money. She too would like to leave an inheritance to her sons and their possible future children.

But what’s on her mind above all else is how she wants the black community to benefit from long-term reparations, which is why she’s pushing for the hub. Crowder said she’s worried that because some African Americans “have had less exposure to large dollar amounts,” there’s a risk that reparations money won’t have enough of an impact on the community. in general.

“Some guidelines on how to use money to ensure you have generational wealth would be good,” Crowder said. “Whatever dollars come to us, how do we leverage it?”

She acknowledged that some people might find her concern offensive, as if black people don’t know what to do with the reparations money. But having previously worked to reduce disparities within communities as the ethnic services manager for Alameda County Behavioral Health Services, she said education was key.

People lost important opportunities because they weren’t aware of what was possible, Crowder said: “I’ve known people who got discouraged from applying for a P3. [Paycheck Protection Program] loans, or who have lost their house when they could have kept it.

Harris, the dancer, said he thought Crowder’s push for a financial and wellness hub was a great idea. “Educating people on how to get help is good,” he said. “In school, we are not taught anything about taxes, savings accounts or starting a business.”

Finally, Crowder, Brown and King all expressed concern about how they or others would prove their eligibility – they must be the descendant of at least one enslaved person or the direct descendant of a free black person who lived in this country before the end of the 19th century – if and when the time comes and it is necessary to receive reparations. Proving lineage might take resources that some people might not have.

” Where to start ? Brown asked, adding that she had done genetic testing but was unable to determine exactly where her ancestors came from in Africa. “You have to pay money to find all this.”

Among the task force’s recommendations is the creation of an Office of African American/Freedmen Affairs to address past and potential future harms, which would include an administrative arm to assist claimants.

Moore said she intends to discuss with the task force how the state can ease the burden on people who want to prove their eligibility.

“The standard is set, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need tweaking,” she said.

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