SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Payments of $5 million to every eligible Black adult, the elimination of personal debt and tax burdens, guaranteed annual incomes of at least $97,000 for 250 years and homes in San Francisco for just $1 a family.
These are just some of the recommendations made by a city-appointed reparations committee tasked with a thorny question: What would it take to atone for the centuries of U.S. slavery and generations of systemic racism that continue to keep Black Americans on the bottom rungs of health, education and economic prosperity, and overrepresented in prisons and homeless populations?
A first hearing before the city’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday could offer a glimpse of the board’s appetite for advancing a reparations plan that would be unmatched nationwide in specificity and breadth. Critics have slammed it as financially and politically impossible. One conservative analyst estimated that each non-Black family in the city would have to pay at least $600,000.
Some supervisors have said San Francisco can’t afford any major reparations payments right now, given the city’s deep deficit amid a tech industry downturn, but they still want to discuss the proposals and consider future solutions. The board can vote to change, adopt or reject any or all the recommendations.
But reparations committee members consider their results to be an accurate estimate of what it would take to begin to repair the enduring damage of slavery and discrimination, and they bristle at the idea that they should figure out how to pay for it.
“We are the harmed,” said Eric McDonnell, chair of San Francisco’s African American Reparations Advisory Committee. “If the judge ruled in our favor, the judge would not turn to us and say, ‘Help them figure out how to make this work.’”
The idea of paying compensation for slavery has gained traction across cities and universities. In 2020, California became the first state to form a reparations task force and is still struggling to put a price tag on what is owed.
The idea has not been taken up at the federal level.
Fewer than 50,000 Black people still live in San Francisco, and it’s not clear how many would be eligible. Possible criteria include having lived in the city during certain time periods and descending from someone “incarcerated for the failed War on Drugs.”
Critics say the payouts make no sense in a state and city that never enslaved Black people. Opponents generally say taxpayers who were never slave owners should not have to pay money to people who were not enslaved.
Advocates say that view ignores a wealth of data and historical evidence showing how long after U.S. slavery officially ended in 1865, government policies and practices worked to imprison Black people at higher rates, deny access to home and business loans and restrict where they could work and live.
“There’s still a veiled perspective that, candidly, Black folks don’t deserve this,” said McDonnell. “The number itself, $5 million, is actually low when you consider the harm.”
Justin Hansford, professor at Howard University School of Law, says no municipal reparations plan will have enough money to right the wrongs of slavery, but he appreciates any attempts to “genuinely, legitimately, authentically” make things right. And that includes cash, he said.
“If you’re going to try to say you’re sorry, you have to speak in the language that people understand, and money is that language,” he said.
Black residents once made up more than 13% of San Francisco’s population, but more than 50 years later, they account for less than 6% of the city’s residents — and 38% of its homeless population. The Fillmore District once thrived with Black-owned night clubs and shops until government redevelopment in the 1960s forced out residents.
John Dennis, chair of the San Francisco Republican Party, does not support reparations although he says he’d support a serious conversation on the topic. He doesn’t consider the board’s discussion of $5 million payments to be one.
“This conversation we’re having in San Francisco is completely unserious. They just threw a number up, there’s no analysis,” Dennis said. “It seems ridiculous, and it also seems that this is the one city where it could possibly pass.”
Led by Supervisor Shamann Walton, the board created the 15-member reparations committee in late 2020, months after California Gov. Gavin Newsom approved a statewide task force amid national turmoil after a white Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, a Black man.
At Tuesday’s hearing, the board could direct staff to conduct further research, write legislation or schedule more meetings. The committee’s final report is due in June.
California’s task force continues to deliberate recommendations, including monetary compensation. Its report is due to the Legislature on July 1. At that point, it will be up to lawmakers to draft and pass legislation, often a time-consuming process.
The state panel made the controversial decision in March to limit reparations to descendants of Black people who were in the country in the 19th century. Some reparations advocates said that approach misses the ongoing harms that Black immigrants suffer.
Under San Francisco’s draft recommendation, a person must be at least 18 years old and have identified as “Black/African American” in public documents for at least 10 years. Eligible people must also meet two of eight other criteria, though the list may change.
Those criteria include being born in or migrating to San Francisco between 1940 and 1996 and living in the city for least 13 years; being displaced from San Francisco by urban renewal between 1954 and 1973, or the descendant of someone who was; attending the city’s public schools before they were fully desegregated; or being a descendant of an enslaved U.S. person before 1865.
The Chicago suburb of Evanston became the first U.S. city to fund reparations. The city gave money to qualifying people for home repairs, downpayments and interest or late penalties due on property in the city. In December, the Boston City Council approved of a reparations study task force.
If a man can identify as a woman, or a woman can identify as a man, if blond haired blue eyed Rachel Dolazal can insist that she’s Black and parley that into a gig with the NAACP, if Katlin Jenner formerly “Bruce” Jenner, can be awarded “ woman of the year”
Can I identify as black, and get in on this scam???
I identify as a black man
A country gone MAD, UTTERLY MAD. These MESHUGANE people, the Progressive Liberals, the WOKE and the rest of these people will be the death of this country, the way we know her. Good bye America, hello Amerika !
I hereby officially self-identify as an eligible black citizen who qualifies for all the criteria to get the reparations. Please send me the check via certified mail.
And don’t forget the $97k/year for the next 250 years and my house.
To help defray the cost of all this I also hereby voluntary offer to pay $10 for the house instead of $1. Keep the change.
Can I identity as black?
Virtue signaling nonsense
I could guarantee that within 10 years of getting this money it will squandered and lost, like many winners of large lotteries and then they will blame the whites for getting them into a bigger mess.
From now on I identify as a black resident of San Francisco ;D
I’m going to open up the biggest Cadillac dealership in San Francisco. I’ll be rich!!
Brilliant love it love it… Finally American can make good on its promise that all of its streets are Paved in gold… I identify as a black Russian Jew… And I don’t mean the drink. Now give me my money… If you don’t we Russians will just take it from you .. As you all well know that’s what we’re known for…… I love America… Now give me my money….
This has nothing todo with slavery reparations as you can be a black immigrant from 1940 and 1996 and qualify. Its all just about trying to get the government to pay blacks money. And those wanting to move there now, too late, need to be living in the city for least 13 years.
Why are the mugged less deserving?
That sounds racist to give just blacks. Give each person in San Fran 5 million.
The economy can handle this just fine
I identify as a smart white Jew running an investment firm catering solely to repatriation recipients who don’t want to be broke in 5 years like certain athletes who earned same or more.
OOOOH, good idea! I identify as a black man living in SF! can I get money too?
my great great great grandparents were slaves (in Egypt) but what the heck…..
To all the “I identify as a Black man.” You can do so as long as you also do so when applying for a job or trying to buy a house in a White or Jewish neighborhood.
How about compensating the Native Americans, the Indians who were here in American long before every other color. They didn’t get the opportunity to be slaves, they were just murdered and relocated to “reservations” at best.
The same nasty comments were said about German reparations to Jews after the Churban. Short memory?
considering how much black people suffer due to racism, disparate outcomes, historic disenfranchisement and the stunted development of the African continent it should be $ 5 BILLION per person.