Nearly 60% of California voters oppose reparation payments for Black residents

But the majority of voters agree on slavery’s lasting, troubling impact

The concept of reparations, which would compensate descendants of American slaves, has gained some traction across the country in recent years. A state task force recently recommended that California make cash reparations a reality. Despite this, voters in California oppose it by a nearly two-to-one margin, according to a new poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies.

“The findings reveal the racial and political contradictions of California voters,” said Cristina Mora, the institute’s co-director, in a statement. “While many people can sympathize with Black Americans’ plight, not all of these feelings will translate into support for policies that address long-standing racial injustices.” And, while this may be an issue of information for some groups, the fact that even liberals are divided suggests that campaigns for racial redress will face a difficult uphill climb.”

Even in deep blue California, where 59% of voters oppose cash reparations, 44% strongly oppose the idea, indicating that the task force’s recommendation faces significant obstacles.

According to the poll, 43% of Democrats support the idea, while 42% oppose cash reparations. Republicans are overwhelmingly opposed to the idea, with 91% opposing it. While 76% of Black voters support cash reparations, 65% of White voters, as well as 59% of Latino and Asian and Pacific Islander voters, oppose the idea.

The task force was formed in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a White police officer in Minneapolis in 2020. Following his death, the country faced a racial reckoning, which resulted in the formation of the Reparations Task Force in California. That team published its 1,080-page analysis of slavery’s legacy, as well as its recommendations for relief for those most affected, in June 2023. Among the suggestions are cash payments to descendants of slaves, policies to end the death penalty, and rent controls in historically underserved neighborhoods.

The cash payments would differ depending on the underlying causes of inequity. To address health disparities, the task force recommended that Black residents receive $13,619 for each year they lived in California, based on the state’s differences in life expectancy between Black and White residents. Additional funds would be allocated to residents based on the length of time they have lived in the state to address over-policing, mass incarceration, and housing discrimination.

Those recommendations are now on their way to the state capitol, where they will be reviewed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state legislature, which is overwhelmingly Democratic.

“Without a remedy specifically targeted to dismantle our country’s racist foundations and heal the injuries inflicted by colonial and American governments, the ‘badges and incidents of slavery’ will continue to harm African Americans in almost all aspects of American life,” the report concludes.

It remains to be seen how cash reparations will fare in Sacramento. Newsom’s office did not respond immediately to a request for comment on Sunday, and poll results suggest that endorsing the idea would be politically risky, especially if the governor decides to run for president in the future.Voters opposed to the idea said it would be unfair to ask today’s taxpayers to pay for past wrongs, and that singling out one group for reparations would be unfair to other groups who had also been wronged.

Nonetheless, the poll found that voters largely agree on the long-term impact of slavery. Sixty percent of California voters believe the legacy of slavery affects the state’s Black residents today — an opinion that is largely divided along party lines, with two in three California Democrats agreeing, while two in three California Republicans disagree. Whatever happens in California, the concept of cash reparations is being closely watched and studied elsewhere.

According to a 2021 poll conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst, feelings in California appear to mirror those across the country, with 62% of Americans nationwide opposing the idea of reparations.

“For opponents of reparations, it is not about the cost or difficulty of the policy, but about perceptions of the worthiness of contemporary recipients of cash payments,” Tatishe Nteta, associate professor of political science at that university and the director of the 2021 poll, said in a statement.

Nonetheless, according to Brookings Institution research, the average White family has about ten times the wealth of the average Black family — and that even when comparing those with higher education, White graduates have more than seven times the wealth of Black college graduates. According to the study, this divide has occurred because Black Americans have been deprived of opportunities to build wealth — not only after slavery, but also through Jim Crow-era segregation, redlining practices, and other discriminatory policies over the years.

“The African American story in the United States is marked by repeated failed promises to right the wrongs of the past—both distant and recent,” according to the task force report, “and failure to acknowledge and take responsibility for the structural racism that perpetuated these harms.”

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply