Secretary of State Shirley Weber fights for lineage-based reparations

If the old adage “As California goes, so the nation goes” is true, descendants of slavery in Mississippi may soon see state government officials discussing reparations initiatives. However, the recently formed reparations task force in the Golden State is currently mired in a debate over a critical aspect of reparations: eligibility.

the United Nations General Assembly Resolution describes the right to a remedy and reparations for victims of human rights violations under international law in five specific categories: restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition. International resolutions for reparations are non-binding, which means they do not have to become law.

The United States has officially apologized five times for its crimes against humanity, although it has never paid restitution for chattel slavery.

Secretary Weber and some members of the task force support specificity, meaning they believe that compensation should be specifically reserved for descendants of chattel slavery. Other members of the task force opt for a more inclusive approach, saying that all black people in the state – regardless of their particular ancestry and its relationship to the institution of chattel slavery – have suffered discrimination and must obtain redress.

In testimony at a Reparations Task Force hearing on January 27, 2022, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber opposed the commission proposed general eligibility conditions for the program recipients. Weber — the first black woman elected secretary of state and the fifth black person to be elected a state constitutional officer in California’s 170-year history — is the daughter and granddaughter of sharecroppers in Arkansas .

Weber is also the author of AB 3121, the bill that produced the nation’s first reparations task force. It is also the same bill whose proposals Weber vehemently opposes. She believes the inclusive eligibility framework decenters legitimate claimants to slavery reparations.

Who will be eligible for repairs?

But the question for her and for us is who should be entitled to reparations?

Debate on this point has been a roadblock for the task force since Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 3121 into law in September 2020. Newsom appointed a “nine-member commission to investigate the history of slavery in the United States, the extent of California’s involvement in slavery, segregation and the denial of constitutional rights of black citizens, and the extent to which the state has benefited from these activities and policies.

California’s racist efforts included separate beaches (only like my family fought in Mississippi) and trying to ban black people completely.

The members of the working group are: Attorneys Lisa Holder, Kamilah Moore, Don Tomaki, Dr. Jovan Scott Lewis, Dr. Cheryl Grills, Professor Eric J. Miller, Senator Steven Bradford, Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer and Monica Montgomery-Steppe.

Lawyer Kamilah Moore, who chairs the task force, recently said the eligibility requirements for compensation were a “tricky issue”. “I hope the resulting reparations package will meet the standards of international law,” she told the Los Angeles Sentinel.

Los Angeles attorney Antonio Moore and ADOS Advocacy Foundation President and CEO Yvette Carnell take a moment to strategize at the Muhammed Ali Center ahead of the 2019 ADOS Conference at Simmons College in Louisville, in Kentucky. Photo courtesy of Yvette Carnell/Twitter

Reverend Amos Browna longtime civil rights activist and mentee of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., also expressed his view on January 27, 2022, that African Americans from chattel slavery should be the only members of the task force. priority. Born in 1941 in Jackson, Miss., Brown was a few months older than 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was brutally killed in Money, Miss., in 1955, an hour from Brown’s home.

Anger surrounding Till’s murder sparked a movement for justice within the black community and magazine images of Till’s mutilated face drove a terrified Brown to the NAACP’s Mississippi field office and his new field secretary, Medgar Evers.

“I told (Dr. King) how upset I was and how bad these men were,” Brown told me for the Mississippi Free Press. “And he said to me, ‘Amos, don’t just be sad and angry and upset. Let’s be smart.'” Evers had to attend the wade in protests in Biloxi, Mississippi, the day before his assassination.

He thought he would have had more choices

Former Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who now sits in the US Senate, was the last person to hold Weber’s current post. before her appointed in 2017Secretary Weber visited his family’s 100-acre farm in Hope, Ark.

There, in former President Bill Clinton’s hometown, she and her cousins ​​swapped stories of shelling peas on her aunt’s front porch, in the dark of night before the city moved in. streetlights and, of course, what forced his family to flee. -his sharecropper father’s refusal to back down during an argument with a white farmer, and the lynching mob that threatened to take his life.

Weber told Jessica Calefati California Matters that her father believed that “education is the portal to a better life”, a perspective she shares today.

“My father always thought that if he had had more opportunities to go to school, he would have had more choices in life. Not that he would have been richer or better off,” Weber told Calefati. “He made decent money. He thought he would have had more choices.

Leo Carney and Sec. Weber believes that descendants of chattel slavery, many of whom are sharecroppers who helped grow and build the United States, should receive reparations exclusively. Photo by Dylan de Jonge on Unsplash

ADOS Advocacy Foundation speaks out

I spoke with ADOS Advocacy Foundation President and CEO Yvette Carnell about the current controversy over eligibility requirements in the language of California’s reparations bill.

“Ours is an experience defined by the unique, shared cost of multigenerational plunder. And because we stand in the place of our ancestors, we insist on a specific group designation as essential to this endeavor,” Carnell told me. “Our ADOS policy team has specific metrics on how genealogy will be determined to resolve eligibility.”

Carnell says that when it comes to reparations, “lineage is the only measure.” She also talked about how what’s happening in California with AB 3121 is a missed opportunity to have a serious conversation about reparations in America.

“The leadership of the reparations task force should not be giving people who are actually against reparations a space to testify,” Carnell continued.

California Reverend Dr. Amos Brown was expelled from his Mississippi high school for making comments to the Cleveland Plain Dealer about unequal schools for blacks. He remembers his participation in the 1961 Freedom Rides, as well as his work at the Third Baptist Church on various social causes. Photo by Martin R. Peters

“And when you have so-called reparations supporters who talk about the American descendants of slavery not bearing any particular cost for the damages that have been done on American soil for centuries – costs that endure d ‘a way that is unique within our group and needs to be fixed – then what is missing is a serious reparations task force.

The brutal murders of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers still impact my life today. Medgar Evers’ strategic direction—with the heightened resolution of the boy’s murder in 1955—paved the way for my father and generations of civil rights activists in Mississippi. A reparations task force that rejects the specific reparations claim for injustices exclusive to the group Till and Evers belong to threatens their legacy.

What the California Reparations Task Force is doing is a complete betrayal of Secretary of State Shirley Weber and the history of American descendants of slavery. True restorative justice is a combination of federal prosecutions, fact-based investigations, and victim-specific compensation for the offenders involved.

Many task force members who are pro-reparations cast themselves in a performative role, rather than standing in the place of their ancestors.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff, or its board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and fact-checking information to [email protected] We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

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