California Lawmaker Gets Emotional Defending Slavery Reparations Bill

A heated exchange unfolded in the California Assembly Judiciary Committee during a discussion about a bill aiming to grant slavery reparations to African Americans. Republican Assemblywoman Kate Sanchez raised concerns about the proposed bill, arguing that it would be unfair to burden Asian and Latino Californians with the financial burden of reparations for a historical wrong they weren’t involved in. Sanchez cited economic analyses suggesting that the reparations package could cost a staggering $800 billion, a sum she deemed unrealistic and unsustainable for the state’s budget.

Sanchez, who is Hispanic, highlighted the significant demographic makeup of California, where 55% of the population is Latino or Asian, many of them first- or second-generation immigrants with no connection to slavery or discriminatory practices. She asserted that forcing these individuals to bear the financial responsibility for historical injustices would be fundamentally unfair.

In a passionate response, Democratic Assemblyman Ash Kalra, who is the first Indian American elected to the California Legislature, denied that reparations would be paid through an immediate $800 billion “balloon payment” from the state budget. He asserted that actions, including reparations, are necessary to address the historical injustices inflicted upon Black families for generations. Kalra, who became visibly emotional, spoke of the generations of wealth deprivation, enslavement, and forced poverty that Black families endured, questioning how those in power could disregard the enduring impact of such injustices.

He emphasized that the United States’ rise as a global superpower was built upon the forced labor of African descendants for centuries. Recognizing and acknowledging this historical reality, according to Kalra, is crucial. He stated that admitting to past mistakes, while challenging, is necessary for true accountability and societal progress.

Following the debate, the Judiciary Committee voted 9-3 to advance the reparations bill, SB 1331, along party lines. This proposal is one of several reparations bills being considered by the California legislature. The California Senate has already passed three bills as part of a larger reparations package introduced by the California Legislative Black Caucus. These bills aim to apologize to Black Californians for the state’s role in enacting slave laws and discriminatory practices since its founding.

The reparations bills will now move to the California State Assembly for further votes. California initially introduced a package of reparations bills in January that sought to provide property compensation and cash payouts to descendants of slaves and other Black Californians. Previous attempts at passing similar bills have been unsuccessful. However, the current bill, SB 1331, seeks to allocate funds for reparations policies that are ultimately signed into law by the governor.

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