San Francisco moves closer to reparations for slavery and racism

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has expressed broad and enthusiastic support for a draft report containing more than 100 recommendations on how to compensate eligible black adults for centuries of systemic racism and slavery.

A hearing held yesterday (March 14) resulted in the unanimous adoption a resolution accepting the report on the repair plan. A proposal recommends that the city provide a $5 million lump sum payment to eligible black residents, while other options include wiping out personal debt and tax burdens, providing San Francisco homes to families for $1, and guaranteeing annual incomes of $97,000 for 250 years.

The report is a product of the 15-member African American Reparations Advisory Committee (AARAC), which was formed in 2021 and tasked with exploring what form reparations might take for the city’s black residents.

If the city follows any of the recommendations, it will become the first major US city to fund repairs, second only to the Chicago suburb of Evanston which began offering financial compensation to black residents in 2021.


β€œIt’s not about black people just getting their handouts. It’s about hundreds of years of free labor, being kicked out of our homes, forbidden to be educated, forbidden to earn a salary, forbidden to reproduce and raise a family, kicked out of San Francisco, forced to pay for the education of others without the same benefit, isolated and underlined, and the list goes on.

–A comment of resident Naj Daniels, at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ reparations hearing held on March 14, 2023

How will San Francisco repairs work?

Concrete details of the city’s repair plans have yet to be determined, but city supervisors at the meeting expressed their commitment to financially compensating residents.

“It’s not about whether or not there is a case for reparations for black people in San Francisco, it’s about what reparations will look and should look like,” the district supervisor said. 10, Shamann Walton, who sponsored the plan.

Critics said repairs in the city were financially unfeasible. Several city officialsincluding supervisors Joel Engardio and Hillary Ronen, expressed a desire to address the lasting effects of slavery and ongoing systemic discrimination, but said city budget constraints would make the plan payout 5 million dollars unrealistic.

What about repairs?

Other reviews, especially online, said California was historically recognized as a β€œfree state,” not a slave state, and challenged the logic of reparations in San Francisco. But black residents of San Francisco have long felt the impact of racist and discriminatory politics.

San Francisco’s federally and city-funded urban renewal program implemented in the 1960s and 1970s affected up to 20,000 black residents. The policy not only forced people from their homes, but also destroyed centers of black culture, including the famous neighborhood of Fillmore, known as the “Harlem of the West”. Almost 900 companies in the area were closed during the development effort and more than 4,700 families were displaced.

The San Francisco Planning Department has recognized since that the city chose to demolish houses based on the race of the inhabitants in order to reduce the black population.

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