Mar 16, 2023

San Francisco Reparations Under Consideration Transcript

San Francisco Reparations Under Consideration Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsCalifornia Reparations Task ForceSan Francisco Reparations Under Consideration Transcript

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voiced enthusiastic support Tuesday for the ideas recommended by a reparations task force that would provide $5M payouts for eligible Black residents. Read the transcript here. 

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Speaker 1 (00:00):

San Francisco supervisors today heard more than 100 recommendations from a city appointed reparations committee tasked with figuring out how to atone for centuries of slavery and systemic racism. San Francisco is considering a reparations proposal that includes a $5 million lump sum payment for each eligible Black person. San Francisco could become the first major US city to fund reparations as the idea gains traction across the country. Reparations advocates say the harms of slavery have continued since its official end in 1865, but critics say reparations are flawed and financially unfeasible. Before today’s meeting, supporters held a rally to talk about why they believe reparations are needed.

Speaker 2 (00:44):

We’ve heard a lot of critics, and even some of you may be questioning, why would we be seeking reparations for Black San Franciscans? Many folks often say that California and San Francisco specifically did not enslave Black people. And so there’s lots of history that obviously needs to be researched, and I’m putting that responsibility on all of you to do that.

Speaker 1 (01:11):

Black people make up 6% of San Francisco’s population and 38% of its homeless residents. Today, supervisors expressed support for reparations that were presented to them, but that does not mean that all those recommendations will ultimately be adopted. The board can vote to approve, reject, or change any or all of those recommendations. And a final committee report is due in June.

Speaker 3 (01:37):

All right, for more now we are joined by Eric McDonnell, chair of San Francisco’s African American Reparations Advisory Committee. Thanks so much for joining us. I’d like to start off with what we’re just hearing from the San Francisco NAACP saying now that they would actually want to reject the reparations one-time payment in favor of investments in key areas of education, economy, housing, healthcare, and the Fillmore Heritage Center in the Black community. Can we get your thoughts on this new development?

Eric McDonnell (02:09):

Happy to share my thoughts. First of all, thank you so much for inviting me to come spend a few minutes with you all. Coming to that question, I would first say this is an historic day. It’s an historic moment where we are having serious, intentional, deliberative conversations about reparations in San Francisco. A short time ago, not thought possible. And yet, here we are. And so as is expected, as the committee has done its hard work, developed this draft plan that we will work to make final in June, there are folks who are bringing all kinds of points of view right about it. So we respect that. I’m aware of the NAACP’s perspective. Without commenting deeply about it, I would say that represents an or context and we are offering an and context. So we respect that the NAACP can obviously share its perspective, and we as a committee as a whole don’t share that perspective.

Speaker 1 (03:10):

All right, so let’s talk about the notion of these $5 million payments to individuals in San Francisco. You actually say this is a low figure. If you look at the totality of the harm that’s been caused by slavery in this country, why do you believe that those cash payments are so crucial?

Eric McDonnell (03:33):

In answering that question, let me just make clear, there are 111 recommendations in the report. While I’m happy to speak to this one, I want to make it really clear, it is but one of 111 and our intention is to ensure that Black San Franciscans who have experienced significant harm over the history of San Francisco have opportunities in education and in health and in policy and in economic empowerment. And so it seems as if many read the first section of economic empowerment and stopped. There are many. In terms of the $5 million, you cannot put a price on the cost of lives lost, properties lost, stress-induced health crises, the inability to create pathways to economic agency and self achievement. You cannot put the price tag on that. And so yes, therefore, my point of view is $5 million is an appropriate estimation, but again, the harm is actually priceless.

Speaker 3 (04:36):

There are conceptual thoughts to this, right? What you’re talking about is the far-reaching effects generations past of what an entire community is dealing with. But there are the logistics of this as well. When you talk about money, you talk about conditions on how you would qualify, you talk about the expectation of how this would actually be delivered. It’s complicated. I mean, trying to imagine, one, how you afford it, how you do it, how you guarantee that this money is given to the people it’s supposed to go to. How far down into those weeds are you? Or at this point, are you still saying, let’s consider which one of these, or how many of these a hundred plus recommendations we can get behind and then we’ll figure out how to make it happen? Because in terms of a timeline of when this would actually come to some kind of reality, where are you in that space?

Eric McDonnell (05:29):

Sure, thank you. First of all, it’s important to be clear on what the charge of the task force is and what we hold. Our task is and has been to chronicle the harm, research and assess what that harm is, and then assign value to said harm. That was it. It’s as if our role was to be an appraisal of the harm. It was not our role, it is not our role, it is the role of the board supervisors in the city to determine the path toward the enablement. That is not the task of the committee. And so we expect-

Speaker 3 (06:01):

To interrupt really quickly, you didn’t go into the saying, is this possible? You went into it saying, what do we think should be?

Eric McDonnell (06:08):

This is the cost, right? So we said, here’s the value of the house. Now, what the market will bear, whether the market will in fact overpay or under-spin, that’s part of what the market will have to figure itself out. And as I said to the board of supervisors just today in chambers, they own this house now with all of its good and its bad and they have an opportunity, and I would add a responsibility, to on behalf of the city own the harm that this city has perpetrated on Black lives for its lifetime. And therefore, what can the city and will the city do now to make good on that harm? Starting with an apology and the acknowledgement of said harm and then beginning to determine what it will commit itself to doing.

Speaker 1 (06:52):

And Eric, before we let you go, what was the sense you got from the board of supervisors? How optimistic are you that they will be open to some or all of these recommendations that your committee has put forward?

Eric McDonnell (07:07):

Sure. Thank you for that. So hopeful, quite candidly. I was pleasantly surprised that to a person, so each member of the board of supervisors took their opportunity to openly and yes, in the public setting, declare their commitment to reparations. Now, they didn’t declare a commitment to individual recommendations. That is the conversation to come. That’s the conversation they will take up when we submit the final report, which will happen in June of this year.

Speaker 1 (07:36):

All right. And obviously we know, yes, a long way to go in this process.

Eric McDonnell (07:40):


Speaker 1 (07:40):

We appreciate the conversation tonight with you. Eric McDonnell, Chair of San Francisco’s African-American Reparations Advisory Committee. Thank you so much for the time. We really appreciate it.

Eric McDonnell (07:50):

Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1 (07:51):


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