California is infested with violent crime, failing schools, America’s highest gasoline prices (a stunning $9.60 per gallon in Mendocino), and a 1,200-year-record drought.

Al fresco vagrants—too many of them mentally ill and/or addicted to drugs and alcohol—populate ramshackle tent cities that breed lawlessness, squalor, and chaos.

Rampant wildfires burn the Golden State to a crisp and pump its skies full of carbon dioxide—a poison worse than cyanide, according to the high priests of the Church of the Green New Deal.

So, amid such monumental challenges, where have California’s leaders focused lately?

Slavery reparations.

Radical-left Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom should spend his time and energy on any or all of these urgent matters, several of which routinely kill people. Instead, Newsom and his Wokistani brethren in Sacramento are sifting through a 500-page report on reparations that state lawmakers ordered via legislation that the governor signed in 2020.

This huge study arrived on June 1. It is “an organizing tool for people not only in California, but across the U.S.,” Reparations Task Force Chairwoman Kamilah Moore said. Legislators expect a “comprehensive reparations scheme” next year.

All of this will devour plenty of official attention that should be aimed at keeping Californians from getting bankrupted, murdered, or incinerated. Rather than unite Californians, ensuing discussions likely will divide Golden State residents along racial lines and perhaps within racial lines.

California did not belong to the Confederacy and was not a slave state. Nonetheless, Democrats are desperate to plunge America’s most populous jurisdiction into a corrosive debate over slavery.

I have been a Manhattan resident since 1987. However, I was born in Los Angeles in 1963 and reared there throughout the glorious 1960s, ’70s, and early ’80s. It is impossible to imagine a better place and time in which to grow up.

Through most of those wonder years, Californians of all colors generally got along. Tensions flared badly during race riots in Watts and after the Rodney King verdict.

But otherwise, Southern California was a relentlessly sunny, vibrant, and prosperous place with incomparable weather, a mellow vibe, and a population that at least tried to bridge ethnic differences and share that peaceful, easy feeling. We did not tear ourselves apart over slavery, which ended 98 years before I hatched, thousands of miles due east.

My sainted mother, 83, and father, 90, came from Costa Rica. Rather than dash across the southern frontier, they arrived legally, with passports and visas. What a concept.

I’m sure that my parents and other black Californians from Latin America, the Caribbean, and contemporary Africa must wonder why Sacramento Democrats hope to spend their tax dollars to pay reparations to the descendants of slaves—whom their families never owned.

Black taxpayers funding reparations for other black people? And people ask me why I don’t write fiction.

Hispanics and Asians whose great-great-grandparents lived in Ecuador, Korea, and other nations even further flung—while blacks toiled in Dixie for free—must ponder why they are being dragged into debates and potential tax-funded financial transfers that have nothing to do with them.

White Californians in the tens of millions belong to families who held no slaves, spent the antebellum years in Europe, bled to death at Antietam battling the Confederacy, or were themselves victims of feudalism, indentured servitude, and even slave labor. “Why are fingers being pointed at us?” they surely ask.

Rather than rip California a new San Andreas Fault, the best thing the Golden State could do for black people is encourage widespread school choice and high educational standards. Charter schools, magnet schools, homeschooling, vouchers, and other options increase the odds that poor black children will learn and prosper.

For those so dedicated, that will provide boatloads more social justice for black Californians than watching Newsom and his minions steer their state along treacherous cliffside roads while staring into the rearview mirror at ancient ugliness.

The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation.

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