During the early 1990s, Ward Connerly, then President of the California Civil Rights Initiative Campaign, was the leading African-American supporting Proposition (Prop) 209, the ballot initiative that outlawed Affirmative Action in California in 1996.
Well, he’s back.
This time, Connerly, now 82, is speaking up in opposition to reparations for Black Californians. He is making his objection as the state moves closer than any government in United States history has ever come to providing comprehensive restitution for slavery to Black Americans who are descendants of enslaved people in the American South.
On June 4, Connerly tweeted that Prop 209 could stop any form of reparations for Black Californians from happening.
“It is (Prop) 209 that will prevent our Legislature and Governor from doing something so ridiculous as to compensate some of us based on the color of our skin or being the ancestors of slaves,” Connerly posted.
The California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans recently submitted its first “interim report” to the State Legislature. The 492-page, 13-chapter report details the committee’s findings thus far covering a range of historical injustices against Black Americans in general with specific citations of systemic discrimination in California. There are chapters dedicated to examining enslavement, housing segregation, unequal education, racial terror, political disenfranchisement, among other wrongs. The final report is due July 2023.
Connerly, who has established himself as a national crusader against race-based preference rules, is one of the first high-profile figures in California to speak out against the task force’s efforts to make amends for historical harms committed against Black Americans. Chris Lodgson, a member of the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California (CJEC), one of seven “Anchor Organizations” sanctioned by the task force to host “listening sessions,” organized to engage the public, responded to Connerly’s post, stating “a conservative businessman from Northern California made an unjust comment.”
“In my gut, I believe you’re wrong. You underestimate the people of California. Also, just because someone might be resentful of something doesn’t mean you don’t do it (to correct) the harms,” Lodgson tweeted on June 6.
“You make a good point that we should carefully consider, and I will,” Connerly replied to Lodgson.
The task force is currently considering five forms of reparation awards: compensatory damages, restitution, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and guarantees of non-repetition. The five remedies for human rights violations were pioneered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR). The IACHR is an “autonomous judicial institution” whose focus is the application and interpretation of the American Convention on Human Rights, the organization states on the Organization of American States (OAS) website.
On March 30, the task force decided in a 5-4 decision that lineage will determine who will be eligible for compensation. The panel then quickly moved to approve a framework for calculating how much should be paid — and for which offenses — to individuals who are Black descendants of enslaved people in the United States. An expert team of economists was appointed to calculate the damages listed in the interim report and determine what constitutes harm and atrocities for the descendants of enslaved and free Black people who were in the U.S. in the 19th century.