By Tanu Henry, California Black Media
Last week, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that he has created a new bureau within the Department of Justice (DOJ) dedicated to fighting discrimination and investigating hate crimes.
Bonta said the new Bureau of Racial Justice, which will be housed under the Civil Rights Enforcement Section, will also support the California task force that the state has charged with studying the impact of slavery and Jim Crow and coming up with reparations recommendations for Blacks in California and around the country.
In September last year, Gov. Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 3121 into law. The legislation, introduced by current California Secretary of State Shirley Weber when she served in the Assembly, requires the state to set up the task force.
Bonta has not yet spelled out how the bureau will contribute to the state’s reparations efforts, but he stressed the urgency of creating it.
“Throughout California’s history, too many of us have felt the sting of hate and discrimination,” said Bonta. “The fact is: No part of California is immune to hate. Too many Asian, Latino, Black, Native American, people with disabilities, LGBTQ, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh Californians all across the state are hurting.”
According to the DOJ, the bureau will focus on six areas: hate crimes and organizations; implicit and explicit bias in policing; law enforcement best practices; campus climate issues; and the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans.
Bonta says the DOJ will work with the Big City Mayors, a group of officials from the state’s 13 largest cities, on its anti-discrimination and anti-hate crime initiatives. The cities are Los Angeles, San Diego, San José, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, Bakersfield, Anaheim, Riverside, Santa Ana, and Stockton.
At the end of this month, the DOJ says Bonta will host a virtual meeting with the Big City Mayors.
“Drawing on the expertise of local elected leaders, the virtual convening will seek to raise awareness around regional concerns involving hate crimes, support those who have been impacted by hate, and secure commitments for direct action across California,” the DOJ said in a statement.
The California Legislative Black Caucus welcomed the news. The group comprised of African American members of the State Legislature says, “California, after its acceptance into the union in 1850 until the end of slavery in 1865, actively supported the enslavement of Blacks.”
The CLBC says the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations will increase understanding among Californians at a time when racial and political divisions divide Americans.
“As Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, I am humbled to be a part of this groundbreaking task force and look forward to having the difficult but necessary conversations on the age of enslavement here in California and across the nation,” said Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), who is also chair of the CBLC and a member of the reparations task force.
“The remnants of slavery and Jim Crow are still alive and well today and need to be addressed. We have found ways to not only apologize but also provide reparations to every group wronged in America and around the world except for African American decedents of slavery,” Bradford pointed out.