San Francisco leaders favor reparations that could include $5 million payouts. Here’s when it could happen
Rep. Burgess Owens has said reparations are ‘condescending’ and part of a ‘racist narrative’
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this month to approve draft reparation plans to compensate the city’s qualified Black residents for slavery.
Some of the more than 100 recommendations included in the plans include an assured annual income for eligible residents of $97,000 for 250 years, the voiding of personal debt and taxes and the purchase of homes within the city for $1.
The lump sum payment of $5 million to every qualified Black adult resident was the most significant proposal included.
The city’s plan represents the most specific proposals to date among those advocating for reparations for slavery.
“I don’t need to impress upon you the fact that we are setting a national precedent here in San Francisco,” Tinisch Hollins said, vice-chair of the African American Reparations Advisory Committee. “What we are asking for and what we’re demanding for is a real commitment to what we need to move things forward.”
The committee has been tasked since 2020 to explore ways to address “the institutional, City sanctioned harm that has been inflicted upon African American communities.”
Although California never legally sanctioned slavery, a draft proposal from the committee last December stated that reparations might “address the public policies explicitly created to subjugate Black people in San Francisco by upholding and expanding the intent and legacy of chattel slavery.”
The board’s move is not binding and is largely symbolic, although it greenlights the continued study of the recommended proposals. “We are not here today to say what recommendations we will be supporting or moving forward with. There is still much work that needs to be done,” Shamann Walton said, who is also the bill’s sponsor.
A final report from the review committee is due in June and the board is scheduled to meet again regarding the bill in September.
Critics speak out against the proposals
The committee has not done a fiscal obligation study yet of the reparation proposals but critics say the costs will be significant.
A study by Stanford University’s Hoover Institution estimates the proposal to pay every eligible Black city resident a $5 million lump sum could cost “nearly $600,000 per non-African American San Francisco household.”
The institution’s study said the committee’s recommendations are “infeasible” and would risk decimating the city’s tax base due to residents and businesses likely leaving the area.
Rev. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco NAACP and a pastor at the city’s oldest black church, told NPR the city needs to invest in housing and education, not $5 million payouts.
“This Black community does not need to be set up for trickery and for failure.” he said. “Their hopes should not be raised up by just words, words, words.”
Brown said he expects some monetary reparations as part of the package, but he acknowledged the city’s fiscal dilemma. “They know there’s no money to pay for it,” he said. “So all they did was just give lip service. It’s not fair. It’s not honest.”
He accused the politicians of benefiting from the talk of reparations but not having a real plan.
“They offer low hanging fruit that seems like a victory but you know will only (lead to) more studies,” he told NPR. “And thats another game. Another delaying tactic. That gets people frustrated until things dissipate and then self-destruct. We’ve got to stop that. It’s time for America to pay up and deal in substance, with integrity and with accountability.”
Congressional Black Republicans respond
Black congressmen from Utah and Florida said the reparation proposals are the wrong way to handle the historical wrongs of slavery.
“San Francisco’s reparations proposal is patently unfair and nothing but a distraction to cover for the incompetence of local Democratic leadership,” Rep. Byron Donalds told Fox News in January.
“Rather than focusing on lowering the cost of living, a historic homelessness crisis, the opioid epidemic, or even the record levels of crime plaguing their city, San Francisco’s Democratic city leadership would rather divide their constituents further under a pretense of racial equity,” Donalds said.
Utah Republican Rep. Burgess Owens told Fox News reparations perpetuate a “racist narrative.”
“The conversation of reparations is condescending, counterproductive, illogical, logistically impossible, and deflects from Democrats’ overwhelming success in propagating misery. It also conveys a racist narrative that Black Americans are a hopeless, hapless, and oppressed race who need pity and handouts to succeed,” Owens said.
As chair of the Republican Education and Workforce Committee in Congress, he said the best way to help is to “teach America’s history of freedom fighters seeking to become a more perfect Union through God’s Grace.”
Owens said congressional Republicans are convinced that “educational freedom for every child — regardless of race, creed, color or zip code — is the way.”