In one of the most sweeping and expensive proposals for reparations to Black Americans, a committee tasked with making recommendations for providing reparations to Black residents of San Francisco is suggesting $5 million lump-sum payments to residents who meet certain eligibility requirements.
The SF African American Reparations Advisory Committee (AARAC), which was convened two years ago under an ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors, has set out its first draft recommendations for financial compensation to Black residents. The recommendations are substantial, and reflect a desire to set the bar high — as the Chronicle noted, SF's "status as a liberal bastion makes it a powerful testing ground for undoing [the] damages" of racial discrimination and slavery.
And while California was never a slave state, the state has its own reparations committee preparing recommendations — and many have already acknowledged the many ways in which African Americans who migrated to California were denied the ability to buy or retain property or accumulate generational wealth.
"This reparations process gives us a chance to look at the many ways, not just economically, that harm can and should be repaired,” says AARAC Vice Chair Tinisch Hollins, in a statement to the Chronicle. "And even though San Francisco has passed policies that touch on the legacy of slavery, we have needed something that goes toward quantifying that harm."
Among the draft recommendations to be considered, the committee is proposing $5 million lump-sum payments to every Black San Francisco resident over who either a) was born in San Francisco between 1940 and 1996; b) can prove they are a descendant of someone enslaved through U.S. chattel slavery before 1865; or c) has lived in SF for over 13 years and is someone, or is the direct descendant of someone, incarcerated as a result of the failed War on Drugs.
"America must admit its sin. Atone for it and act in terms of providing concrete measures that would pay back for the wrong that was done," says Rev. Amos Brown, a member of the committee, in a statement.
Another recommendation is that the city compensate all low-income Black residents to bring their income in line with the area median (or AMI), which for 2022 was $97,000 for individuals, and to commit to doing so for 250 years. The committee also recommends other ideas like forgiving credit card, student loan, and/or home mortgage debt.
"This is an opportunity for San Francisco to make amends,” says Eric McDonnell, chair of committee, in a statement to NBC Bay Area. "We came up with the plan based upon an intention to do as much research, and gathering the data that demonstrates the harms that Black folks have experienced in San Francisco."
McDonnell added, "There is the large question of, how much and how does the city pay for this? Much of the argument is, it’s too complex. Well, when you consider the atrocities of slavery and again its descendants, it may be complex, but we’re a really smart country."
Reactions to the proposal have been predictable, with right-wing media quick as always to decry SF's liberal craziness. (Though the point of the draft recommendations document may simply be to set the bar high at the start.)
Fox News noted that if even half of SF's Black residents qualified for the lump-sum payments, that would cost the city over $100 billion.
SF Supervisor Aaron Peskin has expressed his support for the committee's work, telling the Chronicle, "There are so many efforts that result in incredible reports that just end up gathering dust on a shelf. We cannot let this be one of them."
Following the submittal of the draft recommendations, the AARAC is expected to complete its final recommendations for submittal to the Board of Supervisors in June.
Top image: A large crowd of protesters wearing masks and carrying signs that say, "Reparations Now" as they walk through neighborhoods at the Black Lives Matter protest in Bayside, Queens. This peaceful protest was a March against Police violence against people of color and a reaction to events that happened in Bayside on July 12, 2020 where protestors were accosted by Blue Lives Matter supporters and one of the protesters was arrested while others were pepper sprayed by New York Police. Photographed in the Queens Borough of New York on August 01, 2020, USA. (Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)