California moves to create 'genealogy office' to determine who gets reparations

Reparations would be limited to "descendants of a free Black person living in the United States prior to the end of the 19th century."

Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver, BC

The California Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation that would establish a new cabinet-level agency tasked with carrying out the state reparation task force's recommendations. 

The California American Freedman Affairs Agency would be headed by a secretary appointed by the governor, and among other things, create a Genealogy Office to help determine who is eligible to receive as much as $1.2 million to make up for the injustices committed against their ancestors, per Just The News.  

The Genealogy Office, it explained, would "support potential reparations claimants by providing access to expert genealogical research to confirm reparations eligibility and expedited assistance with the reparations claims process." 

Reparations would be limited to "descendants of a free Black person living in the United States prior to the end of the 19th century." While the bill initially stated that only "African American descendants of a chattel enslaved person [living in the United States]" would be eligible, the most recently amended version expanded that definition to include all "descendants of an African American chattel enslaved person in the United States," regardless of the descendants' racial makeup. 

As the National African American Reparations Commission noted, however, " a large-scale DNA study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics concluded that, nationwide, about 3.5 percent of people who identify as white ... have at least one percent African ancestry." 
Given that California is 6.5 percent Black and 72 percent white, the group argued, "if the task force incorporates the suggestion that lineage can be proven by establishing 'negative evidence,' it is entirely possible that white people could claim the bulk of reparations." 

SB 1403 would also create an Office of Legal Affairs, whose members would "provide legal advice, counsel, and services to the agency and its officials, and to ensure that the agency’s programs are administered in accordance with applicable legislative authority." 

The legislation, introduced by Democratic state Senator Steven Bradford, was approved by a vote of 8-1, with the sole "no" vote coming from one of the committee's Republican members. The other was absent. 

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