The National Black Cultural Information Trust Celebrates The California Reparations Task Force’s Interim Report But Hopes For Changes To Eligibility Requirements

National Black Cultural Information Trust, Inc.

Reparations experts, historians, organizations (including the National African American Reparations Commission and the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America), and anti-racism educators stress that while tracing direct enslaved ancestry is possible for some African Americans, it is not feasible for all harmed families or communities. Additionally, extensive ancestry tracing measures can be time-consuming, expensive, traumatic, and create additional barriers to access. Thus, direct “enslaved ancestry” tracing should not be a determinant for eligibility.

For large-scale reparative justice initiatives among local governments, states, and national levels, eliminating barriers to access is essential for reaching and repairing Black communities. An alternative to lineage-based reparations is harms-based reparations which recognize that Black communities have endured centuries of dehumanizing delays and barriers to reparative justice. Thus, harms-based reparations reject false and invasive purity standards and redirect focus on documented harms done to our communities. So-called lineage-based reparations place the onus of proof and belonging back on African Americans that have experienced centuries of varying injuries depending on location, socio-economic status, etc.

“Requiring extensive genealogical background checks (even those promoting the concept of negative proof) would delay and or serve as additional time-consuming or costly barriers (potentially millions of dollars) used to further deny communities in need. However, harms-based reparations focus on repairing harms and do not punish Black communities for lack of slavery documentation by focusing on continual harms for historical accuracy and accessibility. To best remedy harms and protect the future of Black communities, eligibility requirements for reparative justice should focus on harms and include not only chattel slavery but also Jim Crow and systemic racism that is currently harming Black communities,” said Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor, founder of the National Black Cultural Information Trust, Inc.

Additionally, harms-based reparations uplift that Descendants of Africans Enslaved in the United States or descendants of free Black communities are owed reparations, and people of African descent residing in the United States that were also harmed by the vestiges of slavery and Jim Crow, regardless of national origin, are also owed forms of reparative justice. The injuries against African descendants in America have always been multi-ethnic. Thus, reparative justice for these harms must include remedies for all persons of African descent who were harmed by the vestiges of slavery and Jim Crow.

We hope that the California Reparations Task Force will reconsider the impact of overly strict determinants for eligibility on Black communities in dire need of reparative justice.

We sincerely appreciate the work of every California Reparations Task Force member and celebrate this historic moment as the struggle for reparations continues.