California Reparations Report Ignores What’s Really Going On

California Reparations Report Ignores What’s Really Going On
A slavery reparations protest outside New York Life Insurance Company offices in New York City on Aug. 9, 2002. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
John Seiler
The Full Interim Report just released by the California Reparations Task Force is a naïve document that will do the opposite of its intention. The group’s full title front-loads its conclusion: the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans.
It was set up in 2020 by Assembly Bill 3121, by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-Los Angeles), currently the appointed secretary of state. The main co-sponsor was Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), now the appointed attorney general. Both are running for re-election. Writing in March for The Epoch Times, I dealt with the early recommendations by the Task Force. The final report is expected next year.

Here I would like to dissect four issues the new Full Interim Report completely misrepresents: the so-called 1619 project, K-12 education, housing, and the minimum wage. The report’s authors seem not to even know what’s going on in California politics today, nor the conditions that have brought us here.

The report concedes California never was a slave state, but can’t get beyond a horrible institution that actually was abolished nationally with the adoption in 1865 of the 13th Amendment, 157 years ago. And the adoption occurred after a four-year Civil War that cost, according to the latest estimates, 850,000 deaths out of a population of 30 million. That’s the equivalent of about 9 million dead today.

The 1619 Project

The Full Interim Report rightly says we need to study more of the history of slavery in America. Unfortunately, it relies on the totally discredited 1619 Project of the New York Times. If we can’t even get the history right, then everything else is distorted. The report writes:

“There is continued opposition to discussing the truth about slavery in public K-12 schools. Republicans in multiple states and in Congress have introduced bills to cut funding from schools that choose to use curriculum derived from the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 series of essays challenging readers to think about slavery as foundational to the nation’s origin story. They argue inclusion of this history delegitimizes the idea of the U.S. as a nation founded on principles of liberty and freedom and creates racial divisions.”

Actually, it wasn’t just “Republicans” who attacked the 1619 project, but liberal historians, in particular in a letter to the Times signed by Professors Gordon Wood, Victoria Bynum, James Oakes, James McPherson, and Sean Wilentz. The latter is a certified liberal Democrat who has been scathing in his critiques of Republicans.
Writing by himself later in the essay “The 1619 Project and Living in Truth,” Wilentz corrected the NY Times’s contention the 1776 Revolution was to prevent the British from ending slavery in the colonies: “The Revolution was supposedly, at its core, a reactionary, proslavery struggle to fend off abolition of slavery by the British.

“The paragraph covered subjects of unsurpassed importance and it was historical gibberish. As I would later confirm with the foremost scholars of the subject who know far more about the Revolution than I, there is no evidence of a single colonist expressing support for independence in order to protect slavery. The 1619 Project’s claims were based not on historical sources but on imputation and inventive mindreading. … At the time of the Revolution, there was considerably more in the way of anti-slavery politics in the colonies than in Britain proper. These are elementary facts.”

And consider this sentence from the Full Interim Report: “Historians have found that United States history textbooks published from 1839 to the 1980s taught that white people were superior to Black people and downplayed, minimized, or justified slavery.”

If a cub reporter wrote that sentence, I’d suggest he take up another line of work. The period 1839 to the 1980s is a long one, 141 years, and includes the period when Southern historians and politicians were trying to justify slavery as it came under increasing assaults, including from some of their own leading lights. But by the 1960s, when I attended public schools, such things were not taught. It’s like saying French is an official U.S. language because France once controlled New Orleans.

School Funding

The Full Interim Report’s Chapter 6 is “Separate and Unequal Education.” No question things were bad in the past. But they write, “Today, in California many Black students continue to attend unequally funded, under-resourced, and highly segregated public schools due to government policies that continue to segregate many schools and school funding by neighborhood. Recently, California has tried to provide a more equitable funding system by providing more state money to school districts that serve our poorest students. However, the system does not ensure that the money is actually spent on those students, many of whom are black children, and there is some evidence that this is a reason that Black students continue to be the lowest performing sub-group in California.”
Have the authors actually read Gov. Gavin Newsom’s January 10, 2022 budget proposal for fiscal year 2022-23, which begins on July 1? Or his May Revision? Both documents project school funding well above $20,000 per child. That means a class of 30 will get $600,000. Which means the problem is not one of money, but pedagogy.
The report doesn’t get to the real problem: the powerful teachers’ unions, which have stymied efforts at reform, including school choice, as I wrote in April, which has worked so well in Arizona. And as I reported in The Epoch Times a month ago, “California Earns ‘C’ Grade on Charter Schools.” The reason was the unions have stymied even this promising reform.
The Full Interim Report includes its own version of the history of education going back to slavery times. But it includes nothing about the critical 1976 Educational Employment Relations Act, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. That gave collective bargaining rights to the teachers’ unions. Which meant they would use union dues—paid for ultimately by the taxpayers’ dollars—to rig the system in their favor and stymie reforms. A major reform they have prevented is paying the best teachers to go into the lowest-preforming schools to improve the learning of low-income black and Hispanic students.
The solution, repealing collective bargaining for public-employee unions, isn’t even brought up by the report in its 42-page section on education.

Minimum Wage

In the section “Stolen Labor and Hindered Opportunity,” the report urges: “Raise the minimum wage and require scaling-up of the minimum wage for more experienced workers, require provision of health benefits and paid time off, and provide other missing protections for workers in food and hospitality services, agricultural, food processing, and domestic worker industries.” And, “Invest in institutions that reduce the likelihood of criminal activity such as care based services, youth development, job training and increasing the minimum wage.”

Once again, the authors seem not to have noticed current conditions in California. The current minimum wage is $15 an hour for companies with 26 or more employees; and due to inflation will go up to $15.50 in 2023. But all around Southern California I see signs promoting jobs at $16 or higher. That may change should a recession hit.

But the authors also do not even mention the history of how the minimum wage was used to hurt black workers. The late economist Walter Williams wrote the major research on that now 50 years ago. Here’s a short YouTube video of him explaining it. Based on his research, I wrote about the damage of the minimum wage last December here in The Epoch Times. Short excerpt:
Williams’ study for Policy Review magazine was called “Government Sanctioned Restraints that Reduce Economic Opportunity for Minorities.” He wrote, “The minimum wage law gives firms effective economic incentive to hire only the most productive employees which means that firms are less willing to hire and/or train the least productive, which includes teenagers and particularly minority teenagers. But holding all else constant, such as worker productivity, such a wage law gives firms the incentive to indulge in whatever preferences that they may hold.”

I summarized: “He noted how black youth unemployment in the 1940s and early 1950s actually was less than for white youth. In 1948, it was 9.4 percent for black kids, but 10.2 percent for white kids.

“But then in the late 1950s, the minimum wage was increased by 33 percent, to $1 an hour. That pushed black youth unemployment above that for white youth, and it never has gone the other way since.

“In November 2021, according to the St. Louis Fed, black youth unemployment (16 to 19 years old) nationally was 21.9 percent, almost double the 11.2 percent rate for all youth that age.”

CEQA Reform

Briefly, in Chapter 5 the report includes 44 pages on housing, but nothing on the major problem affecting not just blacks, but everybody: The California Environmental Quality Act and stymied attempts to reform it. Even Govs. Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom have said it needs to be reformed because CEQA makes building new housing, even for the poor, ludicrously expensive.

The report writes, “[W]herever African Americans settled and prospered throughout American history, federal, state, and local governments, along with private actors, used numerous mechanisms: park and highway construction, slum clearance, and urban renewal to destroy those communities. … These harms have never been adequately remedied.”

Then what about CEQA? Never mind. The report’s authors would rather let blacks—indeed, everybody who doesn’t own a home in California—suffer in this horrible market than offend the powerful environmentalist extremists who always stop CEQA reform.

Conclusion: What a Waste

In sum, the Full Interim Report is not just a waste of time and 492 pages, but a gigantic missed opportunity to deal with the state’s most critical problems. It doesn’t deal with union power and environmentalist power that prevents reform. It has no conception of how free markets work, especially by lifting up those at the bottom by giving them opportunities. It also doesn’t take into account some of the realities of California’s unique situation, especially the difficulties of a state with one-party hegemony, impossibly high real estate prices, and the dominance of liberal delusions such as those advanced in its text.

The report’s solutions are a mishmash of socialist utopian thinking, biased history, and a failure to take up the ideas of conservatives, libertarians and even liberal reformers. The final report coming out next year promises to be even worse. That’s foolish in a state that’s the most diverse in the world. What’s needed, instead, is a lessening of tensions and resentments and workable solutions that benefit everyone.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at and his email is [email protected]
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