California’s committee on reparations for the descendants of slaves wants the state to apologize for the term “welfare queens.”
Part of the committee’s proposal for a reparations package to California residents who descended from American slaves is for the state to issue a formal apology. Besides slavery, the proposal highlights a large number of policies and societal outcomes that negatively affected black people. Among them is then-Governor Ronald Reagan coining the term “welfare queens.”
“As California Governor (1967-1975), Ronald Reagan coined the term ‘welfare queen’ as racist coding to promote his philosophy preferring a limited government,” the committee wrote. “This terminology conjures stereotypes of single Black women as hypersexualized, aggressive, and dependent on government income with frivolous spending habits. Despite that the majority of welfare recipients are white, this racist label blamed African American women for shortfalls in the United States’ social safety net and suggested they were more responsible for their poverty than others. Then-Governor Reagan has also been reported to have made racist remarks regarding African delegates to the United Nations.”
But Reagan did not actually coin the term as Governor. The far-left publication Slate, in a 2013 article on the term and its origins, reported that Reagan did not actually originate the term. Reagan gave a speech in January 1976, nearly a year after he left the Governor’s mansion, describing a Chicago woman named Linda Taylor who had been collecting more than $150,000 a year in payments from various social safety net programs. It was the Chicago Tribune who highlighted Taylor’s lavish lifestyle, and dubbed her the “welfare queen.”
Besides an apology for “welfare queens,” the reparations panel recommends that any apology from the state “must also include a censure of the gravest barbarities carried out on behalf of the State by its representative officers, governing bodies, and the people.” Those injustices include:
A former Confederate serving as the first acting President of the University of California
California not passing any anti-slavery laws, despite being admitted to the Union as a free state
Zoning ordinances targeting black people
Suppressing the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and 1970s
Developing oil and gas projects and building hazardous waste plants near majority-black neighborhoods
Terminating affirmative action programs in public employment
Racial disparities in the child welfare system, law enforcement, the prison population, jury service, health care, the number of black physicians and licensed attorneys
Licensing requirements excluding black people from skilled jobs
The report is headlined by its proposal for direct payments to black resident of California. According to the final report, black communities impacted by mass incarceration and over-policing aligning with the national War on Drugs could receive about $115,260 per person, or $2,352 each year they lived in California from 1971-2020.
Panel members said black residents impacted by lending and zoning redlining by banks between 1933 and 1977 could receive $3,366 each year they resided in California, capping at $148,099. Another method created by the panel calculated gaps between black and white “housing wealth” at $145,847 per person.
Other alleged injustices and discriminations in health were estimated at $13,619 per person for each year lived in California.
Based on a New York Times analysis, a black person living in California for 71 years — the average life expectancy of Black residents in California in 2021 — could receive up to $1.2 million. Some economists projected to The Associated Press that California could owe more than $800 billion in reparations, which more than doubles the state’s annual budget.
Brandon Drey contributed to this report