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Critics lash San Francisco’s $5m per person reparations plan


A proposal to give $5 million to every eligible Black person in San Francisco as part of the city’s efforts to pay reparations was slammed Wednesday as “preposterous” by critics.

It is one of dozens of suggestions, along with a guaranteed annual income of nearly $100,000, a house for $1 and the cancellation of debts, which came from a committee tasked with finding ways to atone for the city’s racist policies of the past.

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It was met Tuesday with a rapturous response from San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, one of whom hailed it as a plan “for everybody’s collective future.”

But John Dennis, head of the Republican Party in San Francisco, who was at the meeting, said the proposal was irresponsible because it was impossible to finance.

“It’s completely unserious and aside from being a massive waste of time, it’s also a complete distraction,” he told AFP.

“The city’s (annual) budget is $14 billion. They’re talking about spending $50 billion. It’s preposterous.”

The draft reparations plan is the latest by liberal-leaning jurisdictions looking for ways to make up for centuries of systemic repression that have left Black Americans more likely to be imprisoned, poor, or unemployed.

The notion gained ground with the swelling of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, and the following year the Chicago suburb of Evanston said it would give Black residents money for home repairs.

Other municipalities have launched study groups.

But the San Francisco proposals are by far the most wide-ranging.

Even so, some in the city, whose African American population numbers in the tens of thousands, said they did not go far enough.

Amos Brown of the NAACP, a body that campaigns for racial justice, said headline figures were not helpful.

“Relegating this issue to a fight over $5 million is wrong and dishonest,” he told AFP.

“It doesn’t demonstrate all the terror and pain we have suffered. My position is that for all we’ve been through it’s about $5 million plus specific programs” to bolster economic development, housing, health and education, he said.

A boisterous meeting on Tuesday heard contributions from several supporters including Yulanda Williams, a Black police officer who campaigns for reform of law enforcement.

“It is time for you to do the right thing and provide us with reparations. Make us whole, make us important in your lives,” she told the Board of Supervisors.

“Black lives matter. You have an opportunity to demonstrate this today. Do so with reparations.”

The plan, which did not include details on exactly who would be eligible for payments, will be finalized in June.

Elected lawmakers will have the ultimate say on drafting legislation that would put it into action.

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