- San Francisco policymakers are considering reparations for many of its Black residents.
- Proposals include giving qualifying residents $5 million, $97,000 a year for 250 years, or $1 homes.
- Some of the ideas pitched this week could become law, but there’s no plan for how to pay for it.
Policymakers in San Francisco are considering giving some of the city’s Black residents reparations in an attempt to make amends for the historical legacy of slavery, as well as decades of systemic racism.
In a five-hour hearing this week, a committee on reparations presented a slew of specific proposals to the city’s Board of Supervisors, the Associated Press reported. They included $5 million lump-sum payments for every eligible Black adult, homes in the metro priced at $1 for each family, guaranteed annual incomes of at least $97,000 for 250 years, and the canceling of personal debt and tax burdens.
Over 100 of these ideas, including less costly ones like opening a Black-owned community bank and prioritizing Black candidates for jobs, training, and certification programs, are laid out in a 60-page December report.
Supervisors unanimously supported the presentation from the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee, but its proposals remain far from reality. The committee, which has no power to pass their recommendations into law, will funnel their ideas into a final report in June, and the Board of Supervisors’ next meeting to discuss reparations is scheduled for September. Notably, there is no plan yet for how to pay for the reparations.
If enacted, though, San Francisco’s reparations plan stands to become one of the most substantial packages ever approved in the United States.
Americans have long debated whether or not Black citizens are entitled to a monetary grant or other benefit as means of atonement for past transgressions during slavery and current racial inequalities in wealth and housing, as well as healthcare and education. However, it’s only in the past few years, after the 2020 murder of George Floyd by police, that cities and states have begun to tackle the complex issue head-on.
A task force convened by the California Governor Gavin Newsom has suggested paying each qualifying resident of the state $223,200. Last year, Evanston, Illinois started issuing $25,000 grants to qualifying Black residents, while the mayor of St. Louis, Missouri this month said she is convening a commission to look into “recommend a proposal to begin repairing the harms that have been inflicted” by slavery. Boston is also considering reparations.
The San Francisco proposals, if codified into law, would apply to eligible individuals. The parameters aren’t yet set, but the committee has proposed that qualifying residents be 18 years of age or older and have identified as Black or African American on public documents for at least 10 years.
While the task force has yet to determine the cost of the proposals, Stanford University’s conservative-leaning think tank, the Hoover Institution, said in a January statement that reparations of this scale would cost every non-Black household in the city at least $600,000.
“This conversation we’re having in San Francisco is completely unserious,” John Dennis, chair of the San Francisco Republican Party, told the AP. “They just threw a number up, there’s no analysis. It seems ridiculous, and it also seems that this is the one city where it could possibly pass.”
Justin Hansford, a professor at Howard University School of Law, told the AP that despite good intentions, no municipal reparations plan could undo the scars of racism and slavery — but providing Black Americans with financial compensation is the right move.
“If you’re going to try to say you’re sorry, you have to speak in the language that people understand,” he said, “and money is that language.”
According to the San Francisco Standard, Shamann Walton, the only Black member of the Board of Supervisors, said he wants to include reparations in this year’s budget but realizes it could take considerable time to pass them into law.
“Now, the real work continues,” Walton said. “Let’s not lose focus because when we receive the final report, we have to actually resource the path forward.”