San Francisco board open to reparations with $5M payouts

For every $5 million paid to any eligible Black adult, elimination of tax burdens and guaranteed annual incomes at least $97,000 over 250 years. Homes in San Francisco are available for $1 per family.

These were just a few of the over 100 recommendations that a city-appointed reparations commission made to address the difficult question of how we atone for centuries and decades of systemic racism and slavery. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors heard the report Tuesday for the first time. Some said money shouldn’t stop the city doing the right things.

Many supervisors stated that they were surprised by the opposition from politically liberal San Franciscans, who seem to be unaware of the fact that Black Americans are still at the bottom of education, health, and economic success, as well as being overrepresented in prisons, and homeless.

“Those of my constituents who were confused about the proposal, it’s something we wouldn’t do or would not do for others. It’s something that we would do for our collective future, and for everyone’s,” stated Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, whose District includes the LGBTQ Castro neighborhood.

In its breadth and specificity, the December draft of the reparations plan was unmatched in the country. Although the committee has not done an analysis on the cost of these proposals, critics have called the plan impossible financially and politically. According to Stanford University’s Hoover Institution (which leans conservative), it would cost every non-Black family at least $600,000.

The board’s unanimous support for reparations on Tuesday does not necessarily mean that all recommendations will be adopted. However, the body can vote to accept, reject, or modify any of the recommendations. The final report of the committee is due June.

Some city supervisors stated previously that it is not possible to pay major reparations due to the city’s deep debt and downturn in tech.

Tinisch Hollins (vice-chair of African American Reparations Advisory Committee) made reference to those comments. Several people who stood up to speak reminded board members that they will be closely watching what the supervisors do next.

Hollins stated, “I don’t need to impress upon your the fact that we’re setting a national precedent right here in San Francisco.” “What we want and what we demand is a commitment to moving things forward.

Cities and universities are increasingly accepting the idea of paying reparations for slavery. California was the first state to establish a reparations taskforce in 2020. However, it is still trying to determine what is owed.

This idea was not taken up at the federal level.

Black San Francisco residents used to make up more than 13%, but now, more than 50 years later they are less than 6% and 38% respectively of the city’s homeless population. Before government redevelopment, the Fillmore District was a vibrant area with many Black-owned shops and nightclubs.

It’s estimated that less than 50,000 Black residents still reside in the city. However, it is not clear how many of them would qualify. You could be eligible if you have lived in the city for a certain period of time or if you descend from someone who was “incarcerated” for the failed War on Drugs.

Critics claim that the payments are absurd in a city and state that have never enslaved Blacks. Opponents argue that taxpayers should not be required to pay money for people who were not slave owners.

Advocates argue that this view overlooks a wealth historical and data evidence that shows that government policies and practices continued to imprison Black people at higher levels, restrict their ability to work, and deny them access to loans for home and business.

Justin Hansford, a Howard University School of Law professor, claims that no municipal reparations plan has enough money to correct the wrongs of slavery. However, he is open to any attempt to “genuinely legitimately, authentically, and authentically” do so. He said that cash is also included.

He said, “If you want to apologize, you must speak in the language people understand. Money is that language.”

John Dennis, the chair of the San Francisco Republican Party does not support reparations, but he said he would support serious discussion on the subject. He does not consider the $5 million payment discussion by the board to be one.

“This conversation in San Francisco is totally unserious. Dennis stated that they just gave a number and didn’t do any analysis. It seems absurd, and it also appears that this city is the only one where it could pass.”

In late 2020, the board established the 15-member reparations commission months after California Governor. Gavin Newsom approved the creation of a state task force in national turmoil following the death of George Floyd, a Black Minneapolis police officer.

The committee is still deliberating recommendations, including monetary compensation. Its report is due to be submitted to the Legislature on July 1. Then, it is up to the lawmakers to create and pass legislation.

In March, the state panel decided to limit reparations to the descendants of Black immigrants who arrived in the country during the 19th century. Some advocates of reparations claim that this approach doesn’t take into account the sufferings suffered by Black immigrants.

San Francisco’s draft recommendation would require that a person be at least 18 years of age and have been identified as “Black/African American” in public documents for at most 10 years. The list could change, but the eligibility criteria must be met.

These criteria include being born or migrating from San Francisco between 1940-1996 and living there for at least 13 years; being displaced by urban renewal between 1954-1973 or the descendant or ancestor of someone who was; being educated in the city’s public schools prior to their full desegregation; or being an enslaved descendant.

Evanston, a suburb of Chicago, was the first U.S. town to finance reparations. The city provided money for qualifying individuals to pay down mortgages, home repairs and interest. The Boston City Council approved a task force to study reparations in December.