The International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

25 Mar The International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 62/122 designated March 25 as the annual International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Accordingly, 2023’s Theme is “Fighting slavery’s legacy of racism through transformative education.”  

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The racist narrative of inferiority drove the enslavement of millions of Africans during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. As a result, millions more lost their lives on ships bound for the New World. Countless families were decimated. Languages and religion were lost. Trauma was inflicted, and violence was perpetrated. Yet, despite experiencing the most abysmal circumstances and numerous human rights violations over the centuries, enslaved people remained resilient in their hope, defiant against the conditions of slavery, and courageous in their efforts to be free.

The racist legacy of the Transatlantic Slave Trade reverberates today in America and across the globe. It is woven into everything from U.S. politics to its educational systems, entertainment, and the kinds of housing and medical care black people receive. The United States has apologized for its crimes against African peoples, despite never paying restitution for chattel slavery. However, the apology was vital to offering reparations. The U.N.’s General Assembly resolution 60/147 outlines the right to remedy and pay reparations to victims of human rights violations under international law in five specific categories: restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and guarantees of non-repetition. International resolutions for reparations are non-binding, meaning they do not have to become law.

In an attempt to address the racist ideology, California Assembly Bill 3121, authored by Dr. Shirley Weber, established the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, with a Special Consideration for African Americans Who are Descendants of Persons Enslaved in the United States (Task Force or Reparations Task Force). The purpose of the Task Force is to:

  1. Study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans.
  2. Recommend appropriate ways to educate the California public on the task force’s findings.
  3. Recommend suitable remedies in consideration of the Task Force’s findings.

On June 1, 2022, the task force released a report detailing critical findings of historical discrimination by the state and a series of recommendations for the following steps to address those wrongs. The 500-page report lays out the harms suffered by descendants of enslaved people–long after slavery was abolished in the 19th century–via discriminatory laws, redlining, segregated education, lack of access to employment opportunities, and a legal system that targets Black people. In addition, the report found that though the 13th Amendment empowered Congress to remove “all badges and incidents of slavery in the United States,” California perpetuated new iterations of harm that have “been innumerable and have snowballed over generations.”

The report’s recommendations include policing reforms to housing grants to compensate families forcibly removed from their homes to make way for state projects like freeways and parks. Here are just some of those critical recommendations: 

  • Separate and Unequal Education: The task force recommends identifying and eliminating “racial bias and discriminatory practices in standardized testing” and for the state to provide “free tuition to California colleges and universities.”
  • Political Disenfranchisement: The report calls on California to pass legislation that aligns with the objectives stated in AB 2576 (Aguiar-Curry) and establish funding for voter education and outreach, and task the Secretary of State with taking steps to increase voter registration.
  • Housing: The task force calls on the state to identify and eliminate anti-Black housing discrimination policies and practices, compensate those forcibly removed from their homes, and repeal Article 34 of the California Constitution
  • Wealth Gap: Calls for the state to provide funding and technical assistance to Black-led and Black community-based land trusts to support wealth building and affordable housing.

2.6 million Black Residents in California could be eligible for reparations. A final report, including specific proposals and who would be eligible, will be issued to California’s Legislature before July 1, 2023. The task force is seeking public input through a survey conducted by the UCLA Bunche Center.

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