San Francisco would be the first major city in the country to provide compensation
by Olivia Wynkoop, Bay City News
San Francisco supervisors provided early support to give redress to black residents for enduring systemic racism for the past 200 years.
The 100 plus recommendations the supervisors heard from an advisory committee on Tuesday included $5 million payouts to each eligible black adult, personal debt and tax relief, guaranteed annual income of $97,000 and sale of homes in the city for only $1.
Other ideas mentioned were adding black history and culture curriculum to schools, free healthcare for people in need, and better support for black businesses and employees.
Although supervisors expressed interest in the proposals, first in the nation draft plan has not yet been formally approved. Supervisors have options to change or reject any or all recommendations before final report is presented in September.
Supporters of the plan say reparations will help correct the centuries of slavery and racism that denied generations of black people equal opportunities to thrive in San Francisco. African American Reparations Advisory Committee staff found that the city has fostered a “legacy of civic disinvestment” to black people, particularly during its “urban renewal period,” when urban planning policies from the 1950s to the 1970s aggressively sought to improve predominance. Black neighborhoods such as the Western Addition and the Fillmore district.
The rebuilding process was said to have displaced thousands of people from their homes without compensation and with little room for discussion. Since then, the city’s black population has steadily decreased in size, likely due to fewer housing options and greater wealth disparity, the advisory committee said.
Despite making up less than 6 percent of the city’s population, blacks make up 38 percent of residents sleeping rough on San Francisco’s streets and shelters. “Despite its reputation for liberalism, San Francisco has consistently imposed restrictions on who can access the city’s abundant wealth,” the report said. “Since its founding, black people in San Francisco have faced significant obstacles to full participation in society and the economy.”
About 50,000 black people live in San Francisco today, although it remains unclear who will be eligible for compensation. Potential criteria for eligibility include residents—or their descendants—who were displaced from redlining, incarcerated because of the War on Drugs policy, or attended city schools under the consent decree.
Implementation of some of the suggestions would do San Francisco the first major city in the country to provide compensation. However, the ideas have certainly not been introduced without criticism. Some question the city’s financial capacity to carry out remediations, as the report presented Tuesday did not lay out a financial roadmap for how much each proposal would cost. The conservative-leaning Hoover Institution at Stanford University estimates that non-black families would each have to shell out nearly $600,000 for just four of the 19 economic recommendations to work.
San Francisco’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which first asked the city for restitution in 2019, specifically rejects the $5 million payment proposal. The organization said the city should redirect its focus to invest in five key areas – education, job opportunities, housing, healthcare and culture. “We strongly believe that creating and funding programs that can improve the lives of those who have been affected by racism and discrimination is the best path forward toward equality and justice,” said civil rights leader Rev. Amos Brown.
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