Does No-Whites-Allowed Reparations Task Force Represent a Conflict of Interest? - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Does No-Whites-Allowed Reparations Task Force Represent a Conflict of Interest?
California’s Reparations Task Force holds public meeting, Oakland, May 6 (California Department of Justice/YouTube)

The California Reparations Task Force just voted its own members millions of dollars. This is not illegal?

African Americans constitute eight of the nine members, and people of color make up the entirety of the task force. The homogenous body seems to violate even the charge of the discriminatory enabling legislation that commanded that the group “[m]embers shall be drawn from diverse backgrounds to represent the interests of communities of color throughout the state.” Strangely, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the leaders in the state Assembly and Senate who appointed its members regarded it as appropriate to name, almost exclusively, interested parties.

How interested?

Nobody ever legally enslaved another human being in the history of the state of California.

Under the formula promulgated by the task force and assuming eligibility, member Amos Brown, a minister in San Francisco since 1976, would receive $823,947; lifelong Californian Monica Montgomery Steppe, who sits on the San Diego City Council, would stand to grab $788,639; and Steven Bradford, a state senator living in California since 1969, would see $954,602 should the recommendations become law.

Did task force members discuss the ethics of voting themselves enormous sums of money or consider recusing themselves?

The American Spectator posed such questions to University of California, Berkeley, professor Jovan Scott Lewis, Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, and Loyola Marymount University professor Cheryl Grills. As of posting time — more than 12 hours after sending the queries — Grills alone had responded.

“We are following the standards for reparations established by the UN,” Grills explained. “It is unethical to have the oppressor class decide what repair should look like per the UN.”

Grills also pointed out that several African-American members may not meet eligibility requirements based on Caribbean “affiliation” or difficulties proving lineage. Possibly some who voted for reparations reject them based on a seeming conflict of interest.

California’s Political Reform Act states, “Assets and income of public officials which may be materially affected by their official actions should be disclosed and in appropriate circumstances the officials should be disqualified from acting in order that conflicts of interest may be avoided.”

Why did not this law, in the books in one form or another since 1974, apply to task force members who stood to gain?

The enabling legislation for the task force mentions slavery more than 30 times. History does not cooperate. California entered the union as a free state in 1850. Five hundred of its sons lost their lives in the Civil War (maybe their descendants should receive reparations, too?). The racial tics evident to its east did not particularly afflict the state. Anti-miscegenation laws certainly existed until the 1940s, but they did in most areas of the country (and persist in some parts of the Middle East and elsewhere). California stood out rather than fit in on race relative to other states. Los Angeles, for instance, reintegrated the NFL after making use of its Memorial Coliseum for the Rams upon their move from Cleveland contingent on black players competing. African Americans flooded San Francisco, Oakland, and other California cities during the Second Great Migration in part because of the state’s lack of racial hangups. In short, its history is not exactly Mississippi’s.

Perhaps because of the absence of slavery and Jim Crow, the task force incorporated such debatable grievances as “health harms” and “mass incarceration and over-policing” into its calculations that somehow determined a precise dollar amount to repair past discrimination, which, given the status of all members of the commission, clearly did not hamstring all African Americans.

Not just the underlying rationale but the recommendations do not follow. What do the adoption of universal health care, an end to the death penalty, the abolition of cash bail, and the restoration of voting rights to convicted felons have to do with reparations for African Americans? They seem instead items long on the left-wing wish list.

It feels like a corruption of purpose just as interested parties voting themselves wealth conjures up corruption in a self-dealing sense.

Nobody ever legally enslaved another human being in the history of the state of California. At a price tag estimated at $800 billion, reparations necessarily require Californians who never owned slaves to, on average, work until meeting a $20,000 threshold for other Californians who never endured slavery.

Whether or not that adds up to social justice, it certainly does not amount to justice.


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Daniel J. Flynn
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Daniel J. Flynn, a senior editor of The American Spectator, is the author of Cult City: Harvey Milk, Jim Jones, and 10 Days That Shook San Francisco (ISI Books, 2018), The War on Football (Regnery, 2013), Blue Collar Intellectuals (ISI Books, 2011), A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008), Intellectual Morons (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002). His articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, New York Post, City Journal, National Review, and his own website,   
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