SF supervisor pushes for a reparations plan for black residents

Supervisor Shamann Walton announced Friday he wants The City to come up with a plan to provide reparations to African Americans in San Francisco.

Walton announced the plan on the steps of City Hall Friday, days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, where he was joined by other African American officials like San Francisco Unified School Board member Stevon Cook, former District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell and City College Trustee Shanell Williams.

“Reparations can be defined as providing what is owed to the descendants of slaves who were trafficked to and enslaved here in the United States,” Walton said. “The injustices and racism during the time of slavery still resonate in some of the policies and systems that exist today.”

He said that “we’ve been having a conversation about reparations for far too long in this city.”

Walton said he will introduce legislation in the coming weeks that would establish a working group that would have the task of drafting a reparations plan. The plan, he said, could take about six months to develop.

It’s not exactly clear what it could look like.

Walton said that one example of reparations would be the basic income trial program that Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs launched last year to provide some low-income residents with $500 a month. Another possibility would be grants, not loans, to African American business owners.

“Financial reparations are definitely in order and a piece of what needs to be done,” Walton said. “But that’s not the only thing. There are things that we need to do that are going to change some of the systems that are in place that continue to keep black folks in poverty.”

About 5 percent of San Francisco’s population is black, according to the U.S. Census. In 1970, blacks made up 13.4 percent of the city’s population.

Maxwell pointed to continued inequities, such as a disproportionate number of black people in jails and health outcomes.

“The problem is the bill is still going up,” she said.

“Four hundred years of free labor. You owe big time,” she said. “We are a very wealthy city. Let’s see that wealth. Let’s see it invested in the people that have helped you build that wealth.”

Pastor Raynard Hillis of Bayview’s Double Rock Baptist Church said that African Americans are San Francisco’s poorest demographic with a median income of $28,000 compared to median income of white residents at $111,000.

“That gap is too large,” Hillis said. “Something has to be done.”

Walton has not committed yet to the date when he would introduce the legislation to form the working group but he said it could take weeks. He said he first wanted to hold a community meeting to discuss details, such as who should serve on the working group and the number of seats.

“I am going to work with the community and let the community decide how we set up the working group,” Walton said.

He said he wants the work to focus on “all the injustices in the black community.”

“It will be about black businesses. It will be about education. It will be about housing. It will be about over-policing. It will be about mass incarceration,” Walton said.

Walton has a majority of the Board of Supervisors supporting the formation of the working group.

“The term reparations is not an easy pill for some people to swallow, and it is a tough conversation that is going to have to be had as we do this work,” Walton said.

“We can put together the appropriate reparation plan,” he added.

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