California black leaders seek reforms, reparations study
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s Legislative Black Caucus is prioritizing a package of bills for this year that include police reform, a task force to study reparations and a repeal of California’s controversial 1996 law barring affirmative action at colleges following the police killing of George Floyd.
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who chairs the caucus, said California and the nation need deep reforms, from stricter rules about police conduct to leveling the playing field for black Americans in college admissions and in the workforce.
“Will it be systemic … or will this be a quick response that we’ve had before?” she said at a news conference Tuesday after advocating for sweeping legislation. “Every riot has its somehow quick response to the problem, and it doesn’t sustain itself. And we find ourselves back in the same situation. We’re optimistic that will not happen this time.”
The caucus’ wish list includes legislation to study whether descendants of slaves in the nation’s most populous state should receive cash reparations. Members are also seeking legislative approval for a proposed ballot measure asking Californians to repeal Proposition 209, a 1996 referendum that banned preferential treatment for minority groups applying to state colleges and government jobs. Another measure would expand the right to vote for parolees.
Weber, a San Diego Democrat, said she has been frustrated in the past when bills backed by the Legislative Black Caucus “get killed in committee” or the politically powerful law enforcement lobby opposes changes such as ending neck holds, known as a carotid restraint. San Diego police said Monday that officers will no longer use that tactic.
Two bills go before the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee Wednesday.
California’s ban on affirmative action has been controversial ever since California voters outlawed state institutions from discriminating or giving preference to individuals on the basis of race or sex. Many minority groups support repealing the measure to boost racial and gender equity, with college admissions being a major flash point. The repeal bill by Weber and two other lawmakers would need voter approval.
Another bill by Weber would establish an eight-person expert group to study whether California should become the first state to pay reparations. The task force would hold hearings and issue recommendations on what forms of compensation should be awarded and who would be eligible.
The caucus also supports making it harder for law enforcement officers with a record of misconduct to move from one department to another. Sen. Steven Bradford, a Democrat from Los Angeles, said the “future of black California is dependent on changing this system.”
Protests nationwide over police brutality were sparked after four police officers in Minneapolis detained Floyd, who was black. Floyd died after an officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes on the ground.
While most of the protests have been peaceful, Weber also condemned the property damage and violence in some cities.
“We don’t want people to get caught up in that. We want them to remember the real issue,” she said.