EXPLANATION: Next Steps for Black Reparations in San Francisco

San Francisco supervisors supported the idea of ​​reparations to blacks, but whether members will agree to one-time payments of $5 million to each eligible person or any of more than 100 other recommendations made by an advisory committee will not be known until later this year.

The idea of ​​Black reparations is not new, but the federal government’s promise to grant 40 acres and a mule to newly freed slaves never materialized. It wasn’t until George Floyd, a black man, was killed in police custody in 2020 that reparations movements began to spread in earnest across the country.

The state of California and the cities of Boston and San Francisco are among the jurisdictions trying to atone not just for slavery, but for decades of racist policies and laws that systematically denied black Americans access to property, education and ability to build generational wealth.


Black immigration to San Francisco soared in the 1940s due to work in the shipyards, but racially restrictive covenants and red lines limited where people could live. When black residents were able to build a thriving neighborhood in Fillmore, government redevelopment plans in the 1960s forced residents out, dispossessed them and decimated black-owned businesses, advocates say.

Today, less than 6% of Black residents in San Francisco are Black, yet they make up nearly 40% of the city’s homeless population.

Supporters include the San Francisco NAACP, though it said the board should reject the $5 million payments and focus on reparations through education, jobs, housing, health care and a cultural center for blacks in San Francisco. The San Francisco chapter is chaired by the Reverend Amos C. Brown, who serves on both the statewide and San Francisco compensation panels.


Critics say that California and San Francisco never legalized chattel slavery, and there is no one alive today who owned or was a slave. It’s not fair for municipal taxpayers, some of whom are immigrants, to shoulder the costs of the government’s structural racism and discriminatory policies, critics say.

An estimate from Stanford University’s conservative-leaning Hoover Foundation said it would cost each non-black family in San Francisco at least $600,000 in taxes to pay for the costliest of the recommendations: The $5 million payment per person, a guaranteed income of at least $97,000 a year for 250 years, eliminating personal debt and converting public housing into homes for sale for $1.

A 2022 Pew Research Center survey found that 68 percent of U.S. respondents opposed reparations compared to 30 percent in favor. Nearly 80% of blacks surveyed supported reparations. More than 90% of Republicans or those who lean toward Republicans opposed the refunds, while Democrats and those who lean toward Democrats were split.


It is not clear. The advisory committee that made the recommendations says it’s not its job to figure out how to fund San Francisco’s atonement and repair.

That will depend on local politicians, two of whom expressed interest Tuesday in bringing the issue to voters. San Francisco Supervisor Matt Dorsey said he will support a ballot measure to enshrine the compensation in San Francisco’s map as part of the budget. Shamann Walton, the supervisor who leads the compensation charge, supports that idea.


Education recommendations include establishing an Afrocentric K-12 school in San Francisco; recruitment and retention of Black teachers. mandating a core curriculum in Black history and culture; and offering at-risk students cash for meeting educational benchmarks.

Health recommendations include free mental health, prenatal care and addiction treatment for poor Black San Franciscans, victims of violent crime and the formerly incarcerated.

The advisory committee also recommends prioritizing Black San Franciscans for employment and training opportunities, as well as finding ways to incubate Black businesses.


There is no deadline for supervisors to agree on a way forward. The board plans to discuss the compensation proposals in September after the San Francisco African-American Compensation Advisory Commission issues a final report in June.


In 2020, California became the first state to form a compensation task force. But nearly two years into its work, it has yet to make any major decisions about who will be eligible to pay and how much. The task force has a deadline of July 1 to submit a final report with its recommendations for reparations, which will then be drafted into legislation for lawmakers to consider.

The task force has spent several meetings discussing time frames and payment calculations for five harms suffered by blacks, including government property grabbing, housing discrimination and homelessness, and mass incarceration. The task force is also discussing state residency requirements.

Previously, the state commission voted to limit financial compensation to people descended from enslaved or freed blacks in the US since the 19th century.

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