by Joel Kotkin
Tuesday, 6
December 2022
Debate
13:20

The absurdity of California’s reparations proposal

Activists are focusing on past injustice at the expense of present inequality
by Joel Kotkin
From a California Reparations Task Force meeting in September. Credit: Getty

You can always count on California’s progressive contingent to mix lunacy with hypocrisy. The state’s nine-member Reparations Task Force last month recommended large state payments to descendants of slaves, now living in California.

The task force estimates compensation of around $569 billion, with $223,200 per person: estimates of a national reparations total could top $14 trillion. California, which was never a slave state, although there were some instances during the Gold Rush, is a strange place to start. Given few Californians were enslaved, the expansive policy is justified by the legacy of discrimination that followed Emancipation.


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This approach ignores the reality of California’s racial history. Rather than focusing on black people, who were never that numerous, the state’s racist passion was trained primarily on indigenous Americans, Mexican and Asians. Early Spanish Franciscans compared native Californians to “a species of monkey” and stripped them of their culture and traditions, forcing them to the Missions.

This was followed by expropriations and discrimination against Mexicans which led to open rebellion in the 1870s and then expulsions in the 1920s. Asian immigrants brought into work in the area were particularly badly treated, subject to racially based discrimination and bloody pogroms in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. In contrast, many black Americans considered California, for all its residual racism, a kind of promised land, certainly far better than the South. As Ralph Bunche noted, African-Americans in California were living, comparatively, “to partake in the freedom and grandeur of the Southland.”

Given this racial history, reparations for one group, based on events that started elsewhere, seems an ideal way to promote racial discord, of which we already have enough. As the recent revelations of conversations among Los Angeles City Council members demonstrate, racial harmony between Latinos, the dominant group in the state, and black citizens is less than harmonious.

LA’s Latina former City Council president, Nury Martinez, was recorded disparaging African-Americans, Jews, and Armenians in a leaked audio recording that led to her resignation. The ensuing scandal focused on racism — Martinez described a white colleague’s adopted black son as a “parece changuito” or ‘like a monkey’. The recording, which was anonymously leaked online shortly before an election, had captured a private conversation between Martinez and other powerful Latino Democrats in LA that took place in the headquarters of a powerful labour group, and centred on how to shore up their power.

Asian-Americans, already more than twice as numerous as black Americans, and whose connection to Southern slavery seems obscure at best, are upset with affirmative action policies that target their children. They have increasingly turned somewhat to the Right on this issue. In heavily Asian Orange County, affirmative action measures still lost two-to-one, and the community seems likely to support a US Supreme Court decision banning race preferences.

Most remarkable of all, California’s guilt trip comes even as state policies, what attorney Jennifer Hernandez calls “the Green Jim Crow”, have not made the lives of most African-Americans any better. In a recent study of minority success by metropolitan area, we found that black Californians had, adjusted for costs, among the lowest incomes in the country, slightly below Mississippi. Their homeownership rates are well below the national norms, and many have been leaving for more advantageous climes.

Perhaps California’s progressives should focus less on the past and more on how to improve present outcomes for the state’s diverse population. After all, it’s questionable whether this policy, even if adopted, can survive legal challenges. But perhaps the biggest roadblock lies in a looming budget deficit that could reach $25 billion next year. Will other Californians be willing to tax themselves further or see services decline in order to address injustices that occurred well before most of their families ever arrived in the country, much less the state?

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Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 month ago

These people are deranged. It would be complacent to assume that ultimately common sense will prevail.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

What can one add. Living there? Get out now if you can.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 month ago

California has many rules which mean leaving the state will not sever your requirement to pay the 13% State Income Tax. If your business keeps doing any business in California after you leave they will always want 13%. If you leave and later sell assets outside the state that you had owned in California (say Bitcoin) they want 13%. If you have nothing to do with California but do business with California customers they want your money. if you leave but take a wile to close every connection they may contest when you ‘Left’ and access tax long after you physically departed – you cannot just flee – they have their hooks in you and want your $$ to redistribute and waste, and will go after you to get it.

It is a State which is epitomized by Pelosi, and so is wicked to its core.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2019/10/22/now-california-can-assess-taxes-no-matter-where-you-livereally/?sh=2a92e8883e7f

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 month ago

Although if you’re black it’s probably a good idea to go there and partake of the reparations.

N Forster
N Forster
1 month ago

Someone should tell Trudeau….

E. L. Herndon
E. L. Herndon
1 month ago

But for those of us who are generationally Californian, we are tied to the land and its specific climate, light, scents, flora and fauna. It is our home. The flood of incomers since WWII, many from the East Coast, have dealt us a blow. But we will endure and strive for the day they leave, or reach understanding, and we can enjoy our beautiful State again. The cities may never recover. But the sea, the mountains, the waterways were here before us, and those of us who tough it out will continue to enjoy them.

Karl Schuldes
Karl Schuldes
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

They’re not deranged. They know full well it’s a crock. They want to maintain the racial animosity because it’s been a reliable political tool for the left.

Last edited 1 month ago by Karl Schuldes
John Dellingby
John Dellingby
1 month ago

It’s sad to see what California has become. The ridiculous thing in this case is that it never was one of the slave states and until recently has a proud tradition of liberty and showing off the best parts of the American Dream. Now it’s a shining example of the American nightmare.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago

This is sad but predictable, and there’s nothing ‘progressive’ about it. Humanity has been punishing the children for the sins of their fathers and their fathers’ fathers for as long as there have been humans. People angry at their lot in life want somebody to blame, and since the slave trader who brought their ancestor to America is long since dead, they act like a banker holding an unpaid debt from a dead man and go looking for the next of kin. Unfortunately, that’s also almost always impossible to determine given the state of records keeping from the time in question and the time elapsed, and there’s the inconvenient reality that even if a person can be identified, there’s a decent chance they’re not much if any better off than our supposed ‘victim’. This means that the only way to realize any actual gain is to target the entire group who caused the oppression or society as a whole, and use government power to extract benefits for the ‘victim’ group regardless of any legal or moral culpability on the part of any current society or any currently living person. By running itself into the ground, California is performing a valuable public service, showing everybody else the consequences of racial grievance politics.

odd taff
odd taff
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Yes people who have never been slaves are demanding money from people who’ve never owned slaves.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago
Reply to  odd taff

I do tend towards unnecessary verbosity. Thanks for putting it more concisely.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 month ago
Reply to  odd taff

Your response is violence, please keep your oppressor language off public discussion sites

It is in fact people who identify with having once been slaves by heritage seeking justice and equity from those identified as being slave owing heritors.

N Forster
N Forster
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

Ok Titania.
Please keep your histrionic sophistry off public discussion sites.

Last edited 1 month ago by N Forster
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

If you believe words are a form of violence, sir, then your words are no exception. If you wish to declare those who disagree to be enemies and label their words as violent, then be prepared to receive the same consideration in turn. For if words are violence, then any organized campaign of advocacy becomes warfare, and any city, state, nation, or tribe that makes war upon another for redress of wrongs present or historic, real or imagined, petty or profound, should be prepared to face similar retaliation. This attitude will only lead to further violence, further hatred, and an endless cycle of escalating retaliations and reprisals. The end of this road is real violence. Do be careful what you wish for, friend.

R Wright
R Wright
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonas Moze

I can’t tell if this meant to be satirical.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
1 month ago
Reply to  odd taff

> demanding money from people who’ve never owned slaves.
Indeed – demanding money from people whose ancestors campaigned & fought wars against slavery.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 month ago

A fine piece of lunacy where the task force consists almost entirely of people who have made their professional life centre on race grifting for the black community apart from a Japanese-American who has been active in promoting Japanese- American solidarity with blacks. Undoubtedly the ideal task force to consider transferring funds from one ethnic group to another (of whom they happen to be members) untroubled by any balancing input from other ethnic groups who might be adversely affected.

Why one group of recently arrived individuals should pay reparations to another group of recently arrived individuals because of what an entirely different set of individuals did to their ancestors many centuries ago is certainly unclear except to this group of biased and ethnicity unbalanced professional social justice warriors many of whom bizarrely have been involved in teaching others to avoid biases.

Of course drumming up inter-ethnic tensions by such absurd proposals will undoubtedly increase demand for their “professional” services. So undoubtedly a win-win for them.

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
1 month ago

A small step to fighting this sort of divisive policy might be to refuse to call these proposed transfer payments “reparations.” To agree to the term used in the debate is to go half-way to losing it.

E. L. Herndon
E. L. Herndon
1 month ago
Reply to  Erik Hildinger

Extortion: Demanding money with menaces. “Reparations” is well within the meaning of the language, I think.

Paula G
Paula G
1 month ago

Some governor wants to be president. Markle follows this same path. This is the way up the greasy pole for Democrats,, so one can tell others what to do, while avoiding all the rules yourself, and collect funds via PACs, foundations and payoffs via mansions gifted for services rendered to autocrats, once one has one’s foot in office.

Wouldn’t it be nice, at least, if Obama was not only a community organizer when he was trying to make a resume, but used his Rolodex of addresses to really help Chicago now, rather than prize all he can for his *cough* foundation and museum? And Markle and the rest of them did not merely support charities that support their clique’s finances?

Dream on and wash, rinse, repeat in the coming decades.

Jonas Moze
Jonas Moze
1 month ago

haha……

this is what one would call a Social Pathology, a sort of cancer which will destroy the host, and then all.

Graeme Kemp
Graeme Kemp
1 month ago

Reparations for the descendants of slaves (or colonialism) make no sense – you should only ever compensate the slaves or colonial subjects directly involved and affected (and maybe their immediate children).
In the wider context, compensating the Chagos Islanders (for instance) who were moved off the island without consent, would make sense, not least because of what the International Court of Justice has decided.
How do you untangle who oppressed who in the past, though? I don’t think you can in any meaningful way.

Last edited 1 month ago by Graeme Kemp
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago
Reply to  Graeme Kemp

Why stop there? Perhaps all the people of the world should seek reparations from everyone else, since slavery was an accepted institution dating back to the Greeks, Romans, Assyrians and Egyptians?

N Forster
N Forster
1 month ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

And perhaps the millions of African decedents of those who captured and sold slaves to Arabs and Europeans should also chip in?

R Wright
R Wright
1 month ago
Reply to  N Forster

There’s virtually no descendants of slaves taken by Arabs left since most of them were castrated and therefore unable to have descendants. For example, in the 9th century black slaves in Iraq launched the massive Zanj Revolt against the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad. How many black people do you see in modern day Iraq? I’ll give you a guess.

E. L. Herndon
E. L. Herndon
1 month ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Some black educators teach that the ancient Egyptians were blacks. As we know, the Egyptians enslaved the Hebrews. Are we going to have to give money to Egyptians because they were black, only to see them give it to the Hebrews because they’d enslaved them?

A Willis
A Willis
1 month ago

Surely the right thing to do is everything we can to return things to where they were before any slavery. Take the descendants of slaves back to the parts of Africa that their for-bearers came from.
They can have the land that was stolen from their for-bearers by those who originally enslaved them, stole their land and sold them off to the Arab traders who took them to the coast for sale.
.

Methadras Aszlosis
Methadras Aszlosis
1 month ago

Radical Marxist progressive SJW Wokeism is a weaponized ideology of the insane. It literally rewrites your neural pathways of common sense and rationality and turns you into a raving lunatic. We are seeing the products of the attacks this ideology has wrought on the cultural fabric not only in the US but abroad. This is a war for the invasion of the mind to turn people into mindless useful idiots. It’s working because the people who have inoculated themselves against this raving ideology are now being beset by said raving lunatics who have been reprogrammed by this weaponized ideology. Leftism is a global danger. It must become a dead ideology or it will plunge the world into darkness. California is a canary in a coalmine.

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
11 days ago

I-N-S-A-N-I-T-Y

1. There were NEVER any black slaves in San Francisco. They were not unique in being drug addicts. Current black citizens get preferential treatment in almost everything, although they themselves were never touched by slavery.

2. The descendants of Chinese workers brought to San Francisco and treated like slaves are not considered worthy of reparations. And they don’t want them. They have made something of themselves, and will be paying reparations to people whose color qualifies them. ( Japanese Americans directly affected by the WWII internment program of the federal government received $20K in reparation, along with a formal national apology, delivered by President Ronald Reagan. Many lost much, much more than their monetary award, including four years of their lives. They were model citizens during their captivity, and many fought and died in the war. They moved on with their lives as model Americans without complaint. )

3. A good portion of voters in San Francisco will be effectively disenfranchised by this ordinance, with the City taxing them without their consent. This is tyranny.
4. If this ordinance passes, Sacramento will race to pass similar legislation statewide. ( AB3121 called for a task force to study the “problem”. Their report is due in June. If it does not include a requirement that this insanity go directly before the voters, we will have statewide tyranny. )

5. This will guarantee another large exodus from this state. ( It should. Enslaving several generations of non-blacks via the tax code to pay for this exercise in virtue signaling by a few loony Progressives is taxation without representation. ) Our bags are packed.

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
11 days ago

More I-N-S-A-N-I-T-Y from the capital of The Land of Fruits and Nuts: Babylon by the Sea. ( As in, “I left my brains, in InSaneFrancisco…” )

1. There were NEVER any black slaves in San Francisco. They were not unique in being drug addicts. Current black citizens get preferential treatment in almost everything, although they themselves were never touched by slavery. U.S. Union soldiers died or were wounded in the U.S. Civil War to free black slaves. ( No quibbling here, please, about the “Union Cause”. Not one San Francisco Progressive will die or be wounded as a result passing reparations taxes on their fellow citizens. They have zero skin in the game, so to speak. )

2. The descendants of Chinese workers brought to San Francisco and treated like slaves are not considered worthy of reparations. And they don’t want them. They have made something of themselves, and will be paying reparations to people whose color qualifies them. ( Japanese Americans directly affected by the WWII internment program of the federal government received $20K in reparation, along with a formal national apology, delivered by President Ronald Reagan. Many lost much, much more than their monetary award, including four years of their lives. They were model citizens during their captivity, and many fought and died in the war. They moved on with their lives as model Americans without complaint. )

3. A good portion of voters in San Francisco will be effectively disenfranchised by this ordinance, with the City taxing them without their consent. This is tyranny.
4. If this ordinance passes, Sacramento will race to pass similar legislation statewide. ( AB3121 called for a task force to study the “problem”. Their report is due in June. If it does not include a requirement that this insanity go directly before the voters, we will have statewide tyranny. )

5. This will guarantee another large exodus from this state. ( It should. Enslaving several generations of non-blacks via the tax code to pay for this exercise in virtue signaling by a few loony Progressives is taxation without representation. ) I will not pay a penny for racial tyranny. Our bags are packed.

gena jones
gena jones
1 month ago

Many other cultures already been paid reparations and you hear no talk back the moment they want to talk about reparations for blacks it’s an issue classic racial divisional issue yes the past is still here in the present and that culture is still enduring a lot of racial forced poverty things upon them people wasn’t given a darn when they printed up 76 trillion dollars worth of fake money to send it out to everybody talking about the stimulus pay everybody was with that type of reparation come on get over it they deserve to be paid just like everyone else you have the Jewish community you have the Asian community etc everyone been paid but the black community.. what is the problem what is the issue ? It feels more like people feel intimidated by that request versus thinking fair or logical….so what if they have to print More fake money to do it they printing fake money anyway for the daily issues so why does it matter to you

E B
E B
1 month ago
Reply to  gena jones

California doesn’t owe reparations to African-American people. If they want reparations then they should sue a state that actually enslaved black people. Kotkin is correct when he says that this reparations panel is erasing the actual history of California, and that historically the racial animus( lynching, removal, seizure of land, economic exploitation, housing discrimination, segregation, racial violence) was directed at Native Americans, Mexicans, and Asians starting in 1850 when California became a state.
California has essentially erased this history and pretends that Mexicans and Asians are all recent immigrants with no history of discrimination. They are imposing a fake black/white history on California. An East Coast version of California. The African American population was miniscule until the 1940s when African-Americans came to California to work in the aerospace industry. The reality is that all minorities in California suffered from discrimination in housing, education, etc. not just African-Americans.
Look at the Census. Go to Family Search dot com and start in 1850 when California became a state. You can see on whose backs the state was built.

gena jones
gena jones
1 month ago

Personally I feel just the title of the story alone was a very personal opinionated title versus being biased before reporting I’m just saying