LA panel to investigate pilot repairs for some Black Angelenos


Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Friday announced the formation of an advisory commission that would develop and advocate a pilot reparations program targeting a cohort of Black Angelenos.

The city previously spent $ 500,000 to create a seven-person advisory committee to make recommendations on how this group could be remunerated and identify ways to fund it with public and private funds. The commission will also identify an academic partner to help develop the pilot program.

In an interview with The Times on Friday, Garcetti said that many private entities, including Open Society Foundations, a grant network founded by billionaire George Soros, had expressed interest in participating in the funding.

Who exactly would benefit from a local reparations program and how any financial compensation would be made are details the commission should decide. Garcetti said he hoped businesses and banks would participate “to start making amends and moving this movement forward.”

It would not be an outlet for these institutions to “buy forgiveness but to reckon with a complicity that we have seen in American capitalism, slavery and post-slavery racism,” Garcetti said.

Council member Mark Ridley-Thomas said in a statement that reparations “will not erase decades of historic injustice, but we can only move forward if we intend to identify solutions to move forward. racial equity ”.

Garcetti’s announcement came a day after President Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a national holiday to commemorate when a Union General told black Americans enslaved in Galveston, Texas , that the civil war was over and that emancipation was a reality.

The members of the commission, who were appointed by Garcetti and the members of the black city council, are Michael Lawson, a former ambassador and head of the Los Angeles Urban League; Khansa Jones-Muhammad, co-chair of the Los Angeles branch of the Descendants of American Slavery National Assembly; Mandla Kayise, an expert in economic development and regional planning; Cheryl Harris, a distinguished scholar of critical race theory and systemic discrimination at UCLA Law School; Katrina VanderWoude, president of the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College; Charisse Bremond-Weaver, President and CEO of Brotherhood Crusade; and Mark Wilson, founding executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Community Development.

Garcetti said the LA advisory board will not examine “all racism” but “will specifically look at remedies where laws hinder” the Black Angelenos’ ability to create wealth.

Garcetti also announced the creation of the National Coalition of Mayors Organized for Reparations and Fairness. The 11 mayors of cities such as Denver, Austin, Texas, St. Paul, Minnesota and Sacramento have pledged to establish advisory boards in their own cities that would also explore the creation of pilot programs.

Granting reparations to descendants of American slaves has been touted as a way to close the wealth gap that persists between black and white Americans.

In Los Angeles, white households have a median net worth of $ 355,000 while black households have a median wealth of $ 4,000, according to “The Color of Wealth in Los Angeles,” a 2019 report jointly released by Duke University. , the New School, UCLA and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development.

Researchers attribute this discrepancy in large part to racist federal and local policies that have kept black people from accumulating wealth for decades.

For example, homeownership has been the primary vehicle through which middle-class white Americans have been able to accumulate and transmit wealth for decades. For decades, the Federal Housing Administration refused to insure mortgages for homes in black neighborhoods and subsidized builders who mass-produced subdivisions for white buyers as long as developers promised not to sell newly built homes. to black families.

Multiple efforts to grant reparations to descendants of American slaves have failed since the Civil War. Attention to the debate has been renewed amid the disproportionate suffering of black Americans amid the COVID-19 pandemic and after protests last year over the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and centuries of systemic racism.

This spring Evanston, Ill. Became the first city in the country to approve repairs for some black residents. The program provided eligible black residents with grants of up to $ 25,000 for down payments or repairs.

Experts like William Darity, professor of public policy at Duke University, called the Evanston initiative a housing vouchers program, no repairs.

In September, California became the first state to pass legislation to mandate a study and develop proposals for potential reparations for descendants of enslaved people and those affected by slavery.

Garcetti acknowledged that city pilot programs would not close the gap, but said it would be a model for the federal government.

The programs would “help the national government not only to have an abstract conversation” about reparations, but would show “real quantitative and qualitative measures resulting from a pilot project for a few years,” Garcetti said.

Darity told The Times that cities should work out what the federal government can get out of a local pilot program that it can’t get from past repair initiatives.

In 1988, for example, the federal government paid reparations to Americans of Japanese descent who were imprisoned during World War II. He could also look at payments from Germany to Holocaust victims, Darity said.

It’s a “good idea in principle, but Los Angeles won’t be able to model, in particular, the effects of narrowing the racial wealth gap on its entire black population,” Darity said.

Repairs were also carried out at the state level.

Florida in 1994 paid reparations to those who survived the Rosewood Massacre of 1923, in which white mobs destroyed a black community and killed at least six people.

Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, who is a distinguished member of the Cities Coalition, told The Times that an effort like this is important because “mayors are helping lead the conversation on national policy and are ready testing that at a faster rate than Washington. ” He highlighted the universal basic income programs in Stockton, Compton and Los Angeles.

Over the past few years, Los Angeles has launched a cannabis effort that many initially heralded as a sort of remedy for the war on drugs that led to the desperate incarceration of blacks. The program has been criticized by its supporters who said it ended up injuring hundreds of people who took financial risks while trying to obtain a limited number of licenses.

LA’s Reparations Advisory Board will have to answer many questions regarding funding and eligibility.

Which blacks should receive reparations is hotly debated.

Some, like Darity, believe that only African Americans, those descended from enslaved people in the United States, should receive reparations because it is this group who were promised 40 acres and a mule after the Civil War. .

“It’s a promise that has never been kept and has spilled over generations,” Darity said.

Others point out that racist American policies have prevented all black Americans, regardless of their ethnicity, from creating wealth.

This initiative is, however, leagues beyond what happened in Washington.

This spring, a measure that requires a federal study of a reparations program was withdrawn from a House committee but has yet to get a vote on the ground. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Biden have expressed interest in looking into the matter. Even if the measure passes through the House, it must pass the equally divided Senate. No Republican has co-sponsored the Senate version; 10 are needed to bypass the systematic obstruction.

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