San Francisco is discussing reparations proposals, however they are a great distance off : NPR
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which meets at City Hall, adopted a draft plan with more than 100 recommendations for compensation to eligible black residents. But the move was largely procedural and does not bind the city to any of the proposals. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images Hide caption
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
San Francisco’s board of directors has signaled that it stands ready to right past racial injustices — at least in spirit.
In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the 11 members accepted a draft plan with more than 100 redress recommendations for the city’s eligible black residents. Those proposals include a whopping $5 million one-time payment to each adult and a full payoff of personal debt — including credit cards, taxes, and student loans. Black residents could also earn at least $97,000 annually for 250 years and buy homes within the city limits for $1.
The board’s move was largely procedural – an intermediate step in a much longer process. It does not bind the city to any of the ideas put forward in the 60-page proposal by the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee, which was tasked in 2020 to “address the institutional, city-sanctioned harm inflicted on African American communities.” became .”
“We are not here today to say which recommendations we will support or advance. There is still work to be done,” said bill sponsor Shamann Walton before voting during the 7 1/2 hour meeting.
A final report with feedback from the Supervisory Board is due in June. The board is scheduled to meet again on this topic in September.
Nonetheless, the vote was met with fanfare from residents and the large cash payout made national headlines. But some longtime civil rights and reparations activists have criticized the board and the committee’s financial restitution figures, calling it political theater aimed at delaying significant change.
Some activists have criticized the plan as unrealistic
“This black community doesn’t need to be built on tricks and failures. Your hopes shouldn’t just be raised by words, words, words,” Rev. Amos Brown told NPR a day after the meeting.
Brown is not only senior pastor of Third Baptist San Francisco, the city’s oldest black church, but also president of the San Francisco NAACP. He said he has been “in the civil rights struggle for 68 years” and was taught by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Frustrated and angry, Brown noted that he had asked the board to reject the $5 million payment proposal before the meeting.
To be clear, Brown said he expects the cash refund to be part of any reparations package by the city, state and federal government. But first, he said, officials need to focus on the future and the best way forward toward equality and justice. For Brown, that means investing in housing, education, health care, economic empowerment, and cultural centers for San Francisco’s dwindling black community.
At its peak in the 1970s, African Americans made up about 13.5% of the city’s population. As of 2022, the number dropped to 5.7%. This makes it one of the largest cities in the country with one of the lowest percentages of black residents.
“Deliberate action should be taken to stop the bleeding of this black population if we’re going to have any blacks left to make amends with,” Brown said.
Brown also noted the city’s budget deficit. “You know there’s no money to pay for it,” Brown said. “So they just paid lip service. It is not fair. It’s not honest.”
By voting to accept the proposal without any indication of how they would fund it, politicians have both options, according to Brown.
“They offer low-hanging fruit that seems like a win, but you know you’re only going to win [lead to] more studies. And that’s a different game. Another delaying tactic. This frustrates people until things unravel and then self-destruct. We have to stop this. It’s time America paid up and acted with substance, with integrity and accountability,” Brown said.
During Tuesday’s meeting, one of the plan’s authors stated that “the committee has not been mandated to conduct a feasibility study. The task was to record the damage and determine the value.”
Others believe the proposals are an important first step towards justice
Andre Perry, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies racial and structural inequality, has written about the government’s obligation to pay reparations. He contradicts the notion that San Francisco’s big ticket items are a red herring.
“This argument about whether or not this is a distraction doesn’t necessarily hold me because in so many cases I hear people say that very serious ideas about reparations are fantastic or foolhardy. So I don’t necessarily jump when I hear a big number more because people often make the same arguments about a very rigorous analysis,” Perry told NPR.
“The mere idea of reparations is impossible for many.”
Perry has yet to read the details of San Francisco’s draft proposal. But he said more often than not, the experts who draft plans that involve large sums of money “recognize the scale of the discrimination and the collective economic impact that many different discriminatory policies have not only over the course of their lives, but also over the life of their family.” person can have. “
Even if it seems all but impossible for a community to pay out that sum, having a record of that assessment is imperative, he added.
He acknowledges that Brown’s concerns stem from lessons learned from the failure of other federal and local efforts.
“In a place like San Francisco, you mostly have what is, and I’ll put that in quotes, a progressive city in an unquoted ‘progressive state.’ And so much of what can be presented can just soothe the fantasies of a progressive left as theater,” Perry said. “And that doesn’t do anyone any service.”
But black communities seeking justice cannot operate from a place of fear, he said.
Other groups of people have succeeded in creating compensation systems for egregious injustices. In the US, Native Americans have been given land and billions of dollars because they were forcibly evicted from their land. Japanese Americans imprisoned during World War II eventually received $1.5 billion in compensation. And the American government played a crucial role in ensuring that Jews received reparations for the Holocaust.
If San Francisco’s proposal goes ahead, it will take a first step, along with other cities, toward some form of local, state and federal redress, Perry said.
“Exclusive, discriminatory politics didn’t start in Washington. It started in the municipalities,” he explained. “Things like redlining started in Baltimore and eventually became codified by the federal government. But they started locally. Therefore, it is important that local governments also begin to develop their reparations policies, which are spreading all the way to Washington, DC.”