by Xion Abiodun
It has been 160 years since slavery ended for Black people in the United States, and we still have yet to see any reparations. When slavery first ended, African Americans were promised 40 acres of land and a mule, but sadly that never happened. Well, now Black people in California – specifically in San Francisco – are pushing to finally make reparations happen.
The San Francisco Reparations Committee has recommended paying Black residents in San Francisco $5 million each. Not only are they pushing for this but they would also like for low-income Black residents to be paid reparations so that they will have a chance to build wealth. To qualify for these payments, you would have to live in San Francisco, be over 18 and have identified as Black on paperwork for the last 10 years.
As of December 2022, there is a 60-page document outlining the reparations plan for African Americans in San Francisco. The plan includes the history of civic disenfranchisement in San Francisco, lessons from others’ reparations, reparations recommendations, and where we go from here.
Not only does this document push for reparations financially, but in other beneficial ways as well. It pushes for Black citizens to get their first choice of subsidized rental units, employment opportunities, training programs, professional certification and more.
Over these past few years the U.S has become much more diverse with people of all colors immigrating here. With that being said, the question of what is defined as Black African Americans when it comes to reparations has come up.
“Black descendants of slaves from the U.S.” must be the primary recipient of reparations, according to San Francisco Reparations Advisory Committee Vice Chair Tinisch Hollins. “If you cannot prove that you are a descendant of slavery, then you don’t qualify for reparations because your ancestors were not directly impacted,” she said.
In the past when reparations were given out, you had to be a certain amount of that race to qualify for reparations. For example, when California gave millions of dollars to Asian organizations and Asian anti-hate programs, they made sure that they kept the money strictly within their community. Most AAPI grants, or scholarships, require you to be 51% or more Asian in order to get access to these benefits.
“We cannot get into genetics and ask people for 23andMe, but even if people identify as multiple ethnicities, if they have identified as Black African American on public records for 10+ years then they will technically qualify,” explained Tinisch Hollins, “The committee is trying very hard to where we can structure the eligibility criteria in a way that gives the most Black people who are descendants of slavery access to the benefits,”
The reparations that we are pushing for does not only involve money but other benefits as well, which include forgiveness of credit card debt, school loans and home debt. So how will the Reparations Committee do that?
“That’s really for the City to figure out. All the advisory committee does is come up with recommendations. The City could do it in a couple of different ways: They can do it by issuing cash. They could do it through taxes. That’s really for the City to figure out,” Tinisch Hollins expressed.
Xion Abiodun is a student of the San Francisco Bay View’s Community Journalism Class, which is funded by the California State Library.