Alameda County supes establish commission to study reparations

ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. — The Alameda County Board of Supervisors is moving forward with studying reparations for African American people in the county.

The decision was made during a meeting on Tuesday, with supervisors voting unanimously to form an ad hoc committee and reparations commission that will facilitate listening sessions and draft an action plan to address the inequities faced by African American people in the county. Fifth District Supervisor Keith Carson gave an impassioned speech in support of reparations, pointing to how this country was founded by slaveowners who set up a system of governance that would maintain their power. That racist foundation has continued to shape the political, social and economic dynamics in the U.S. into the present, he said, impeding the ability of Black people to access housing and employment, among other things.

“Many Black people believe America has and continues to fail Black people,” Carson said.

The ad hoc committee will consist of no more than two supervisors who are expected to oversee the formation of the 15-member commission, the listening sessions and to receive reports on the progress of the draft action plan. The supervisors are expected to appoint the commission members before July 1. All of the commission members must be residents of Alameda County, except for one seat that staff recommended reserving for an individual who has been displaced from the county because of gentrification. The commission has a budget of just over $51,000.

The supervisors initially voted to apologize for the enslavement and segregation of and discrimination against African American people in the county in October 2020. That vote included a pledge to develop an action plan to make amends.

The decision to establish the commission comes as discussions about reparations have gained momentum across the country. In recent years, several cities and states have taken steps to study or implement reparations programs, including California, which established a task force in 2020 to study the issue.

However, several people called in during public comments to speak against reparations, saying slavery happened a long time ago and calling the redistribution of wealth communism and robbery. Supporters of the vote said the decision will begin to address the ongoing bigotry and discrimination that Black people face in Alameda County and the U.S. more broadly.

The reparations commission will have a year, until July 1, 2024, to complete its study and present its recommendations to the board. The board will then decide whether to implement a reparations program.

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