(San Francisco) San Francisco was the scene of a lively controversy on Wednesday, after the presentation before the city council of a plan of “reparations” to compensate for the legacy of systemic racism, which proposes to allocate five million dollars to every African American in town.
Discussed at a public meeting Tuesday evening, this plan was carried out by a commission charged by the city to make proposals in order to correct the inequalities suffered by African-Americans in the United States since slavery.
“Black lives matter. You have the opportunity to demonstrate it today, do it with reparations,” Yulanda Williams, a black police officer who advocates for law enforcement reform, told City Council on Tuesday.
In addition to its flagship measure, it contains a hundred recommendations and proposes, for example, guaranteeing a minimum annual income of almost $100,000 for 250 years for each eligible black adult, a house in San Francisco for one dollar per family or canceling debts of beneficiaries.
Its opponents denounce an “absurd” project.
“It’s not serious at all and besides being a huge waste of time, it’s also a complete distraction,” San Francisco Republican Party leader John Dennis told AFP. “The city’s (annual) budget is 14 billion dollars,” he recalled, estimating the cost of this plan at “50 billion”.
The idea of reparations for systemic racism is on the rise among the American left, in the face of studies that show that American public policies have for decades increased the chances of the African American population to be poor, in the unemployed or in prison.
After the “Black Lives Matter” movement in 2020, California set up a commission on the subject, whose report is still awaited. Several cities have done the same.
In 2021, the municipality of Evanston, near Chicago, became the first American city to adopt a reparations plan, in particular allocating financial aid to its African-American inhabitants to renovate their housing.
But the plan envisioned by San Francisco is by far the most ambitious.
The city has several tens of thousands of African-American inhabitants, and the eligibility criteria have yet to be determined. A final report must be submitted in June, and the municipal council will then have to decide.
Civil rights activists call on them not to reduce this project to a single measure.
“To relegate this issue to a fight for 5 million dollars is incorrect and dishonest,” said Amos Brown of the NAACP association to AFP.
“It doesn’t show all the terror and pain we went through. My position is that for all we have endured, it is $5 million plus specific programs” to support economic development, housing, health and education, he added.