If the latest reports have any credibility, California’s reparations task force will release its final report in a few days. And California’s charge is given ballast by Don Tamaki, the group’s only non-Black member.
Of course, Tamaki’s passionate push for reparations comes as no surprise for many residents of the Bay Area, where he has established an enviable reputation fighting for redress and reparations for Japanese Americans.
While Tamaki saw definite links between the Japanese struggle for reparations and for Black Americans, he said it’s impossible to compare the two. His hope is to “remind others through his work that there’s a deep past of solidarity across the two movements, making Black reparations a critical issue to Japanese Americans and others.”
“Where would we be if it wasn’t for the Black Civil Rights Movement?” Tamaki told NBC News about the movement’s impact on the Japanese American community. “That whole movement changed the culture a lot. And it changed us. And so it began this movement toward redress and reparations.”
It’s been more than two years of hearings by the task force, and now they are prepared to announce a range of recommendations, which could be fodder for other states and cities to mount their own campaigns.
More than his being an attorney in the historic case Korematsu v. the United States 40 years ago, Tamaki’s family was among those forcibly incarcerated during the war and later testified during the hearings on restitution for Japanese Americans.
Some of the points Tamaki has made to the press obviously were discussed among members of the task force, noting “that there continues to be a lack of understanding around how the racism and discrimination of slavery evolved into different modern-day forms.”
“It stems from this idea that reparations are for an aggrieved minority that’s undeserving, and this is a handout,” Tamaki said. “Rather, this is really a debt. This is a societal obligation resulting from when we go back to 1619—stolen wages, stolen property, stolen opportunities.”
Earlier, there were reports about large sums of money being distributed among qualified African Americans, but Tamaki dismissed that notion.
“We have not made a specific recommendation for individual compensation,” he said. “We have hired economists to shine a light on the depth of the economic harm because that’s never been done before, by anybody, and to basically calculate a number and put it before the American public.”