The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted “unanimously” on Tuesday to move forward with a plan that would give every black resident of the city $5 million in reparations.
Although slavery never existed in San Francisco, supervisors argued that it was all part of a “journey” toward justice for African-Americans.
“There wasn’t a math formula,” San Francisco’s chair of the African American Reparations Advisory Committee, Eric McDonnell, recently told The Washington Post. “It was a journey for the committee towards what could represent a significant enough investment in families to put them on this path to economic well-being, growth and vitality that chattel slavery and all the policies that flowed from it destroyed.”
The board also agreed to explore the possibility of providing other forms of reparations to the city’s approximately 50,000 Black residents, including a guaranteed annual income of $97,000 for 250 years and offering homes to Black families for just $1.
A recent study by Stanford University’s Hoover Institution estimated the proposal would require non-Black families in the city to pay at least $600,000, while many economists believe it would effectively bankrupt the already declining city.
“Adding up the costs across these four categories yields a cost of about $200 billion, which is equivalent to a $596,000 liability on a per (non-African American) household basis,” the analysis found. “The size of this tax likely means that San Francisco businesses would be expected to pay for much of the cost of the proposal. However, businesses are becoming increasingly open to relocation, particularly since the pandemic, and this problem is particularly acute in San Francisco.”
The draft reparations plan admits that while both San Francisco and California never “formally adopted” slavery, the prevalence of “white supremacy” was sufficient justification for reparations.
“While neither San Francisco, nor California, formally adopted the institution of chattel slavery, the tenets of segregation, white supremacy and systematic repression and exclusion of black people were codified through legal and extralegal actions, social codes, and judicial enforcement,” it argued.
“A lump sum payment would compensate the affected population for the decades of harms that they have experienced, and will redress the economic and opportunity losses that Black San Franciscans have endured, collectively, as the result of both intentional decisions and unintended harms perpetuated by city policy,” it continues.
Those eligible for the program must be 18 years old and have “identified” as Black or African American on public documents for at least 10 years. Applications must also have been born in San Francisco between 1940 and 1996 and have proof of residency in San Francisco for at least 13 years,” and/or a “direct descendant of someone, incarcerated by the failed War on Drugs.”
The proposal was slammed by the chair of the San Francisco Republican Party, John Dennis, who mocked the plan as “completely unserious.”
“This conversation we’re having in San Francisco is completely unserious,” he told the AP. “They just threw a number up, there’s no analysis… It seems ridiculous, and it also seems that this is the one city where it could possibly pass.”
However, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman has defended the plan, describing it as integral to the future of the city. “Those of my constituents who lost their minds about this proposal, it’s not something we’re doing or we would do for other people,” he said. “It’s something we would do for our future, for everybody’s collective future.”