by Joel Kotkin
Tuesday, 7
June 2022
Analysis
07:00

The absurdity of California’s slave reparations bill

The latest scheme from the state's Governor is a distraction
by Joel Kotkin
Credit: Getty

When it comes to preening, no American politician excels more than California Governor Gavin Newsom. His latest achievement, if you want to call it that, has been signing America’s first “reparations” bill for African-Americans. Although the terms are vague, there are promises of new free tuition and housing subsidies to anyone proving they are descendants of slaves. All this is supposed to be overseen by an Office of African American/Freedmen Affairs.

Given that California was never a slave state (in 1852 it was home to a total of 1500 enslaved people), the adoption of this statute seems a bit absurd. Generally the most persistent racial discrimination was aimed at larger populations — native Americans, the old Californios (descendants of Mexican/Spanish settlers) and, most of all, Asians, who were banned from landownership and were subject to brutal pogroms, with the worst occurring in Los Angeles in 1871.

Indeed, despite the existence of racism and often hostile relations with law enforcement, African-Americans saw California as a liberation from far more oppressive conditions in the South. Moving to LA en masse in the 1920s and 1930s, their numbers increased during World War II thanks to good jobs in the burgeoning aircraft, automobile, and construction economies. While black people no doubt faced some discrimination during this period, they experienced far less than they did elsewhere; in L.A., wrote Ralph Bunche, black people were “eating high up” off the hog.

Although never a large percentage of the state’s population, African-Americans peaked at just under 8% in 1980. But they made a big impact, producing such pivotal figures as Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and San Francisco’s longtime Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, both refugees from Jim Crow Texas.

More recently the black population in California has actually declined to nearer 5.5%. The losses have been heaviest in the progressive-dominated cities. Since 2000, Los Angeles’ black population has dropped by 80,000, from 11% to 8% of the population. South Los Angeles is now majority Latino, while South Central Los Angeles, the site of two of the worst riots in American history, has suffered a growing gap with the surrounding area in terms of homeownership, income and educational attainment.

We are becoming more dystopian,” attorney John Heath, a native of south Los Angeles, tells me. “We can’t house people affordably and only build luxury, and there’s no place for a middle class.” In his community, as in others, he says: “if you want to improve your life, you consider Dallas or Charlotte.”

The black hegira is even more obvious in Newsom’s hometown of San Francisco, where he also served as Mayor. The city’s African-American community has declined from one in seven in 1970 to barely one in twenty today, with most now ensconced in public housing. They are now so marginal that one filmmaker even made a movie called ‘The last Black man in San Francisco’.

Where are African-Americans headed? Primarily to cities in the South, the Intermountain West and even parts of the Great Plains. They do it because life is better for them there. Just look at African-American incomes and homeownership rates: California now ranks in terms of incomes and homeownership towards the bottom of states. Today, adjusted for costs, African-Americans have incomes slightly below their counterparts in Mississippi.

Reparations will undoubtedly be welcomed on campuses, the media and among professional race advocates. But ultimately it is not more important than the chance to earn a decent living, buy a house and get a good education. Under California’s current policy agenda — labelled as “the green Jim Crow” by civil rights attorney Jennifer Hernandez — these aspirations are blocked as companies and industries leave. They cannot be met by more subsidies and admissions of guilt.

Californians of all races, including African-Americans, need policies that don’t assuage white guilt but help minorities and poor people where it really matters — in the pocketbook.

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Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
19 days ago

Going back ten generations you have two thousand antecedents. It is too late for meaningful and equitable reparations. There are historic causes still being worked through by society but it is contemporary discrimination that is important. Over time changes have been made so discrimination is increasingly habitual rather than institutional. Habits though do not change easily or quickly. Proving an entitlement is inappropriate and divisive.

Last edited 19 days ago by Jon Hawksley
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
19 days ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

On the one hand, the left argues that blacks in America are so displaced or ignorant (unlike every other group, apparently) that they should not be required to obtain a government-issued identification card in order to vote. Yet they should be able to provide family documentation for 10 generations? How utterly absurd.

AC Harper
AC Harper
19 days ago

I am not in favour of reparations, or even most forms of affirmative action. Because it is in the nature of Governments to draw lines between those who may have benefits and those who may not.
People who cannot ‘prove’ they are descended from slaves will feel discriminated against. Those of the wrong sort of slave (e.g. ‘voluntary’ indentured workers) will feel discriminated against.
African-Americans who are ‘too rich’ to benefit will feel they have lost out. And anyone who is excluded because they are ‘too white’ will begrudge funding the benefits for others.
It’s a strange and weird world where efforts to resolve racism actually generate more discrimination. Especially for racism that happened a long time ago.

E. L. Herndon
E. L. Herndon
19 days ago

In the old South, little bits of cornmeal left over from the cooking were fried up and tossed to the hounds to keep them quiet. They are called “hushpuppies”. From 40 Acres and a Mule to reparations, politicians try to quiet the clamor without offering substance. We in the US have already fulfilled our duty: an apology from those who never owned slaves to those who never were enslaved. A pity that it happened, but it’s been a perennial human flaw, not a racial issue. It’s so far under the bridge in the civilized world that it’s lost at sea. Keep moving. The difference between being a survivor or a victim is what you call yourself.

Last edited 19 days ago by Liz Walsh
R Wright
R Wright
18 days ago

I demand reparations for the 2 million white people enslaved by north Africans and Turks in the last millenium.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
19 days ago

There may be a case for making amends in some way but financial reparations are nonsensical. The typical African-American is significantly better off than his distant relatives in the former slaving states of West Africa. Who should be paying whom?

M. M.
M. M.
19 days ago

Africans blame non-Africans for the former’s inability to succeed in modern society. Africans claim that slavery (which occurred about 150 years ago) hinders them from succeeding in the United States in the year 2022.

Slavery occurred too long ago for it to affect Africans today.

What prevents Africans from succeeding is their culture and genetics. Slavery did not cause today’s African to commit 27% of all violent crimes against Asian-Americans. Culture and genetics is causing that violence, which leads eventually to incarceration.

How can we be sure that genetics does play a role in behavioral differences? Discoveries in genetic anthropology (since 2001) have proven that Africans are genetically different from East Asians. The latter group possesses the genes of the Neanderthals that once roamed across Europe. Africans do not have such genes.

Get more info about violence committed by Africans.

Last edited 19 days ago by Matthew M.
Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
19 days ago

Is this a policy purely designed to stoke ‘white nationalism’, so that the policy makers can turn around and say “Look, what did I tell you, white nationalism” ?

R Wright
R Wright
18 days ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

That sums up the entire grift. They need to create the enemy to fight it and keep their jobs going. It is a Forever War of activism and provocation.

Johnathan Galt
Johnathan Galt
18 days ago

I’m white, descended from slaves (serfs) in Europe. My family came here for freedom, and lived in the North. None ever owned slaves nor approved of slavery. They fought, suffered, and died to free the people whose ungrateful ancestors are now whining about “reparations.”
They owe ME.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
19 days ago

Every time the topic of reparations comes up I wonder. If someone has some distant ancestors who were slaves, and others who were slaveholders, do they pay reparations to themselves? Yes, there were free African Americans who owned slaves. It was uncommon, but it did happen. Then there are those, like the descendants of Jefferson, who had white ancestry. That is, I suspect, a great deal more common. It just shows how absurd the notion of reparations is.

Rick Abrams
Rick Abrams
19 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

The slavery reparations interim report has as anti-white racist The 1619 Project The reasonable people of both the Dem party and the GOP party should quit and become Independents. To stay in either party is to give the extremists power.
https://bit.ly/3awsfnO   June 6, 2022, CityWatch, Reparations: Another Racist Screed Hits the Fan

Louis Woodhill
Louis Woodhill
19 days ago

Reparations are owed for actions by others that make a person worse off than they would otherwise have been. To make a case for reparations for slavery, the descendants of slaves must argue that they would be better off today if they did not personally exist. (which, absent slavery, they would not). I say, “Go for it. Make your case. This is going to be interesting.”

anthony henderson
anthony henderson
18 days ago

Thomas Sowell’s book ‘Black Rednecks and White Liberals’ should be read by those making these decisions.