California is the first state to require its agencies to present a separate demographic category for descendants of enslaved people when collecting state employee data.
According to a recently signed law, the State Controller's Office and the Department of Human Resources can start collecting this information as soon as Jan. 1, 2024.
These demographic categories will include African Americans who are descendants of people who were enslaved in the United States and Black employees who are not descendants of people who were enslaved in the United States.
The data collected will be included in a public state report on or after Jan. 1, 2025.
Employees will not be required to disclose this demographic information, but advocates who have been pushing for this expansion of data collection say it is for the Black community's benefit, according to the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California.
In recent years, the state has been working to determine whether the state will pay reparations to Black Californians, particularly those who are descendants of slaves. And this year, the California Reparations Task Force affirmed lineage-based eligibility for state reparations — meaning only people who can prove they are descendants of slaves would be eligible.
"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, 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," the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California said in its news release.
The statement went on to say, "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."
Chris Lodgson, the lead organizer of the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, told Axios that Black Californians who are descendants of U.S. slaves are subject to shocking economic disparities and oppression.
Lodgson told the news outlet that this mandate to collect detailed demographic information from state employees will open the door to revealing disparities in income, careers and leadership within California state agencies.
"You can't fix a problem until you see it, until you acknowledge it," Lodgson told Axios.