Reparations: Why Stop With Black People in California?

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

California is a step closer to paying reparations to black residents. The state’s reparations task force approved a raft of recommendations for putting a dollar amount on just how sorry California is for what NBC called “generations of harm caused by discriminatory policies.”


(Spoiler alert: the state is really, really sorry.)

This is terrific news for several important reasons. For one thing, “recommendations on the table ranged from the creation of a new agency to provide services to descendants of enslaved people to calculations on what the state owes them in compensation.”

You need infrastructure to shove that cash around, and qualified professionals to run it. (Cal State should offer a BS in Reparations Accounting.) How often do you get to be there at the birth of an industry?

Of course, the task force itself has been around for a couple of years, and so have, er, imaginative California reparations schemes. And there are nay-sayers, of course. Prof. Roy L. Brooks, a reparations scholar at the University of San Diego School of Law said “There’s no way in the world that many of these recommendations are going to get through because of the inflationary impact.”

What inflationary impact?

Some estimates from economists have projected that the state could owe upwards of $800 billion, or more than 2.5 times its annual budget, in reparations to Black people.

Oh. Well, no matter. This is a moral victory for all of us who live with the debilitating legacy of people we never met being mean to people we never met. Coalition for a Just and Equitable California organizer Chris Lodgson told NBC, “An apology and an admission of wrongdoing just by itself is not going to be satisfactory.”


U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, gets it. “Reparations are not only morally justifiable, but they have the potential to address longstanding racial disparities and inequalities,” she said. Lee is co-sponsor of a bill creating a reparations task force at the federal level.

If California pays reparations, it’s only a matter of time before the Federal Government does. And, although none of my four grandparents came to the U.S. until the 1920s (and never went further South than Coney Island), I welcome it.

That’s right. I want to pay my fair share, just as soon as Great Britain pays reparations for what it did to my ancestors in Ireland. Catholic Laws, Penal Laws, Corn Laws, famine, land dispossession, violent crackdowns – Cornwallis was far more brutal in Connacht than he ever was in Virginia. And while I don’t know exactly how my family forbearers were impacted by all that, I would welcome a grant from reparations scholars to take a research trip to the old country, there to scour parish records and land deeds and ask around at quaint village pubs and seaside golf links.

But I doubt the Brits are going to fork the pounds over until they get reparations from the Normans, and the Danes, and, heck, even the Romans. But Roman descendants in Italy really can’t afford to pay reparations unless the Gauls, the Visigoths, and the Vandals pay for sacking the Eternal City. Maybe the Eastern Roman Empire could … nope. The Turks would have to pay reparations — if they could get theirs from the Arabs …


But I am sure there are plenty of smart progressives out there who could categorize, prioritize and assess the damages for all of them, and the entire global economy will be an enormous transfer pump moving cash from one historically guilty party to another. Eventually, I’ll get mine from someone who never oppressed me, and I’ll pass it right along to someone I never oppressed.

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