California becomes first state to collect data on Black employee lineage

The demographic groups will include Black employees who are descendants of people who were enslaved in the United States and those who are not descended from such enslaved persons.

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Black Americans have long demanded reparations as a means of making up for the wrongs committed against their enslaved ancestors, and it appears California is moving in a direction to make that happen.

According to NPR, the passage of Senate Bill (SB) No. 189 makes California the first state to mandate that its agencies include a demographic category for employees who are descendants of people who were enslaved in the United States. The Department of Human Resources and the State Controller’s Office can start collecting the data as early as Jan. 1, 2024.

This image created from video from the Office of the Governor shows California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 30, 2020 signing into law what is now the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans. In June, the task force made recommendations, and the state legislature has acted on some of them, including the requirement to add a demographic category for Black employees who are descendants of people who were enslaved in the United States. (Office of the Governor via AP, File)

It will break down Black employees in at least two groups  — those who are descendants of individuals who were enslaved in the United States and those who are not descendants of individuals who were enslaved in this country.

Although these disclosures will not be mandatory for the employees, they will benefit the Black community, one advocacy group asserts.

“Not only will this historic legislation provide critical and timely information to California’s Reparations Task Force, which recently affirmed lineage based eligibility for California Reparations,” the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California noted, adding “this legislation begins the process of recognizing the identity and peoplehood of African Americans/American Freedmen in California whose ancestors came to America in chains, were enslaved for hundreds of years, suffered Jim Crow, and yet managed to build the most powerful and wealthiest country in the world.” 

Continued the Coalition statement, according to NPR, “In addition, this legislation is a model for states and localities across the country seeking to take serious steps toward repairing the damage done to the identities and livelihoods of African Americans/American Freedmen for over 400 years.”

SB No. 189 notes that the new demographic information, which potentially will be publicly available as early as January 2025, will be a part of the annual state employee census report.

“The data collected pursuant to the collection categories and tabulations described … shall be included in the Annual Census of Employees in State Civil Service report published or released on or after January 1, 2025,” the bill states. “The data shall be made available to the public in accordance with state and federal law, except for personally identifiable information, which shall be deemed confidential.”

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