The California Reparations Task Force calls on the Golden State to issue a formal apology to former Governor Ronald Reagan who coined the term ‘welfare queen’ and a disproportionately small number of black Californians working as doctors and lawyers as part of a larger effort to make amends for slavery and racism.
The task force, which was created by state legislation signed by outgoing Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020, over the weekend formally approved its final recommendations to the California Legislature, which will then decide whether to implement the measures and send them to the governor’s office to be signed into law.
Among the recommendations, California must issue a formal apology enacted by the legislature and signed by the governor for slavery and anti-black racism.
“The Legislature must apologize on behalf of the State of California and the people of California for the commission of gross human rights abuses and the genocide of enslaved Africans and their descendants through an apology requests for pardons, state censorship of perpetrators, and tributes to victims,” the task force writes in its proposal.
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California has never permitted slavery in its history, but proponents of reparations argue that the state has always worked to maintain the institution and discriminated against black Americans.
“In apologizing, the Legislature shall formally apologize on its own behalf and on behalf of the State of California for all harms described in the [task force’s final] report, and for the atrocities committed by the California state actors who promoted, facilitated, enforced and authorized the institution of chattel slavery and its legacy of badges and ongoing slavery incidents that form the systemic structures discrimination,” the committee writes. “California – its executive branch, its courts, and its legislature – has denied African Americans their basic freedoms and denied their humanity throughout the state’s history, from before the Civil War to the present day. By participating in these horrors, California has further perpetuated the harms suffered by African Americans, permeating racial prejudice throughout society through segregation, public and private discrimination, and the unequal disbursement of state and federal funding. »
The task force demands that the apology include “censorship of the most serious barbarisms committed in the name of the state by its representatives, its governing bodies and the people”, highlighting several examples in a “non-exhaustive list”. Among the list was Reagan using the term “welfare queen,” which the task force called “racist coding to promote her philosophy of preferring limited government.”
The task force says Reagan rolled out the remark when he was governor of California from January 1967 to January 1975. However, the term “welfare queen” gained popularity when Reagan used it during the campaign. 1976 presidential election after leaving the governor’s mansion.
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The so-called wellness queen referenced a mixed-race woman named Linda Taylor, according to a 2019 biography that portrayed her as a con artist and criminal. While Taylor was prosecuted for welfare fraud and allegedly abused the system, critics say she was not a good example of a typical welfare rule breaker and her story was used to feed stereotypes. The task force argues that the “welfare queen” is a racist term to disparage primarily single black women who live on government benefits.
“This terminology evokes stereotypes of single black women as hypersexualized, aggressive, and dependent on government revenue with frivolous spending habits,” the report said. “Although the majority of welfare recipients are white, this racist label blamed African-American women for shortcomings in the US social safety net and suggested that they were more responsible for their poverty than others.”
Beyond Reagan, the task force also wants the California legislature to apologize for the disproportionate number of black doctors and lawyers.
“African-American doctors are underrepresented in California’s medical field, further exacerbating inequities in the health care system,” the task force lists as one of its “barbarisms” for which the state should apologize.
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In another example, the report states, “Whites make up 39% of the state’s adult population, but make up 66% of California’s active licensed attorneys, while African Americans make up 6% of California’s adult population. and only 3% of all lawyers.
However, many of the examples cited refer to more widely recognized forms of racial discrimination, such as segregation. In total, there were about three dozen items listed, ranging from the “disenfranchisement” of black California citizens to “racial barriers to voting” like poll taxes and literacy tests to a physicist and Confederate of South Carolina as the first interim president of the University of California.
In its report, the task force calls on the legislature to establish a government program or agency “to facilitate listening sessions that allow victims and their loved ones to recount personal experiences and recount specific injustices wrought by the state. of California”. These listening sessions “should inform the language of legislators’ apologies and the methods legislators enact to satisfy victims.”
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The task force also says the legislature should commission plaques or other public memorial tributes to commemorate the victims as well as “honor the survivors and raise awareness of the descendants’ continued struggle for justice.”