San Francisco city is mulling over a controversial reparation plan for its Black citizens to atone for centuries of systemic oppression. A committee formulated to come up with suggestions —San Francisco’s African American Reparation Advisory Committee—has submitted a list of 100 recommendations before the lawmakers. The plan which will make San Francisco the first major city to fund reparation to Black Americans, however, receives vehement opposition from conservatives.
“I don’t need to impress upon you the fact that we are setting a national precedent here in San Francisco. What we are asking for and what we’re demanding for is a real commitment to what we need to move things forward.”
Tinisch Hollins, Vice-Chair of the Committee
On Tuesday lawmakers at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors sat down to discuss proposed reparation plans. Ideas being deliberated upon included payments of a $5 million lump sum payment to every eligible Black adult, the elimination of personal debt, a free home for every family, annulment of tax burdens, and annual incomes of at least $97,000 for 250 years.
Supervisors on the city’s board can vote to accept all or some; reject all, or some; or alter the recommendations. The reparation plans carry a potential mammoth financial impact for a city that is already facing a financial crunch. Eric McDonnell, chair of the Committee argued that the $5 million number is actually on the lower side. “There’s still a veiled perspective that, candidly, Black folks don’t deserve this,” he said. “The number itself, $5 million, is actually low when you consider the harm.”
Tinisch Hollins, the vice-chair of the Committee, lashed back at the criticism coming from conservative quarters and reminded the supervisors that what they do next will be closely watched.
“I don’t need to impress upon you the fact that we are setting a national precedent here in San Francisco,” Hollins said. “What we are asking for and what we’re demanding for is a real commitment to what we need to move things forward.”
According to estimates, some 50,000 Black residents who make up 6% of the total population live in the city but it is unclear how many of them will be eligible for reparation.
Justin Hansford, a professor at Howard University School of Law told the Associated Press that no reparation plans would completely atone for the wrongs of slavery but he appreciated attempts to address the issue. “If you’re going to try to say you’re sorry, you have to speak in the language that people understand, and money is that language,” he said.