Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral

Article | June 27, 2023

Justice, Faith, and Law: The Next Phase of Reparations 

Blog|Social Justice Working Group

In 2020 the California Legislature created the Reparations Task Force and gave it three principal tasks: (1) to research and document the history of African American slavery and discrimination; (2) to recommend appropriate ways to educate the public about the Task Force’s findings; and (3) to recommend appropriate remedies of compensation, rehabilitation, and restitution for African Americans, with a special consideration for descendants of persons enslaved in the United States.  

Grace Cathedral’s Social Justice Working Group, which includes clergy, trustees, staff, Congregation Council members, and volunteers, has been following the progress of the Task Force.  As noted, civil rights attorney and Task Force member Don Tamaki explained in his guest homily at the Juneteenth Choral Eucharist, the Task Force has achieved much more than that. Their final report will contain a devastating historical account, a call for official reckoning and apology, an ambitious communications plan, and policy recommendations that address criminal justice and policing, access to housing, education, and employment opportunities, reducing health disparities, environmental mitigation, and investments in infrastructure and cultural resources. Some recommendations would require large public outlays, but others would not, and costs could be spread over time. People in the Grace Cathedral community and the Diocese of California who know about The Episcopal Church’s advocacy work will recognize many of the recommendations, not necessarily through the lens of reparations but as sound policy proposals with a moral underpinning consistent with our values, beliefs, and policy goals.  

The statewide task force will disband soon, and its recommendations will be taken up by the legislature. All of the recommendations will require legislation, whether to create new programs, restructure existing ones, enact new legal protections, or eliminate unfair regimes. The debate may look like Sacramento politics as usual, but we shouldn’t recoil from that. Politics and law can be powerful tools for righteousness despite the fact that, as the Task Force’s findings demonstrate, they can also be instruments of oppression. The public square will be filled in the coming months with talk about the cost, proportionality, fairness, legality, and practicality of reparations. The moral reasoning that our religious tradition offers must not go unheard. In the Episcopal liturgy, we pray for the newly baptized to receive an inquiring and discerning heart and the courage to will and persevere. May we have those gifts within us as we listen, learn, and evaluate the ideas and proposals that emerge in the next phase of reparations. 

This statement reflects Grace Cathedral’s ongoing commitment to social justice. While social justice is sometimes what we do — issue-based advocacy, for example — social justice is also how we approach cathedral life: who preaches from the pulpit, the language and structure of prayer, how and what we learn, and the practices of giving and service. Visit the social justice page of the cathedral website and the cathedral’s blog to learn more. 

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