The fate of San Francisco’s reparations proposal is unclear, but the city’s Board of Supervisors met Tuesday to discuss the prospect and expressed “unanimous” support for the move.
It is unclear if all board members would support the $5 million lump sum payments under consideration for every eligible Black adult in the city.
The state of California became the first in the nation to develop a Reparations Task Force to consider statewide reparations, a move which has garnered increasing popularity following the murder of George Floyd while he was in police custody in 2020, sparking protests across the country.
The city of San Francisco has proposed some of the most drastic reparations recommendations in the state that would give out $5 million to every qualifying Black resident, in addition to other recommendations like free mental health, prenatal care and rehab treatment for low-income Black city residents, victims of violent crimes and those who were formerly incarcerated.
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“A lump sum payment would compensate the affected population for the decades of harms that they have experienced, and will redress the economic and opportunity losses that Black San Franciscans have endured, collectively, as the result of both intentional decisions and unintended harms perpetuated by city policy,” the proposal stated.
Supporters of reparations include the San Francisco’s NAACP, but the organization has stated that the board should reject the $5 million payments and instead focus on education, jobs, housing, and health care reparations in addition to a San Francisco based Black cultural center. The city has also recommended establishing an Afrocentric K-12 school, focusing on hiring and retaining Black teachers, mandating a core Black history and culture curriculum, awarding at-risk students who hit educational benchmarks with cash, prioritizing Black residents for job opportunities and training, as well as finding ways to incubate Black businesses.
Those in favor of the move believe it is a necessary attempt to make up for slavery and racist policies implemented throughout American history, but the city’s advisory committee has not indicated how reparations would be financed.
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Critics of reparations don’t believe that today’s California’s residents should have to pay the price for racist actions in history and argue today’s municipal taxpayers, including immigrants, shouldn’t have to pay for past discriminatory government policy. Stanford University’s Hoover Institution calculated how much the proposal would cost and estimated non-Black families in San Francisco would pay at least $600,000 each for the $5 million per-person payout, a $97,000 a year guaranteed income for 250 years, personal debt elimination and converting public housing into condos to sell for $1.
There is no deadline for San Francisco’s supervisors to agree on a plan, but the next discussion about the reparations proposals is planned September after the release of the final San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee report expected in June.
Statewide, the California Reparations Task Force has yet to make many key decisions nearly two years into their commission, which was tasked with studying reparations proposals “with a special consideration for” the descendants of enslaved Black people living in the state, according to legislation passed in 2020.
The task force has until July 1 to submit a final report of its reparations recommendations, which could be drafted into legislation for lawmakers’ consideration. In 2022, the group voted to limit reparations to descendants of enslaved or free Black people living in the United States in the 19th century.
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Nearly 70 percent of Americans are opposed to reparations, while 30 percent signaled they were in favor of such a move, according to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey. Almost 80 percent of Black people surveyed supported reparations.
Reparations proposals have been considered across the country, including cities in Massachusetts and Illinois. A bill in Congress that was first introduced in 1989 and would allow the federal government to study reparations hasn’t come close to a vote since it was first introduced in 1989.