The Absurdity of California's Slave Reparations Bill

When it comes to preening, no American politician excels more than California Governor Gavin Newsom. His latest achievement, if you want to call it that, has been signing America’s first “reparations” bill for African-Americans. Although the terms are vague, there are promises of new free tuition and housing subsidies to anyone proving they are descendants of slaves. All this is supposed to be overseen by an Office of African American/Freedmen Affairs.

Given that California was never a slave state (in 1852 it was home to a total of 1500 enslaved people), the adoption of this statute seems a bit absurd. Generally the most persistent racial discrimination was aimed at larger populations — native Americans, the old Californios (descendants of Mexican/Spanish settlers) and, most of all, Asians, who were banned from landownership and were subject to brutal pogroms, with the worst occurring in Los Angeles in 1871.

Indeed, despite the existence of racism and often hostile relations with law enforcement, African-Americans saw California as a liberation from far more oppressive conditions in the South. Moving to LA en masse in the 1920s and 1930s, their numbers increased during World War II thanks to good jobs in the burgeoning aircraft, automobile, and construction economies. While black people no doubt faced some discrimination during this period, they experienced far less than they did elsewhere; in L.A., wrote Ralph Bunche, black people were “eating high up” off the hog.

Read the rest of this piece at UnHerd.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.