by Joel Kotkin
Wednesday, 18
January 2023
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The moral grandstanding behind San Francisco’s reparations plan

The supposedly progressive city is alienating its black residents
by Joel Kotkin
From a California Reparations Task Force meeting in September. Credit: Getty

San Francisco, long a bastion of extremist progressivism, is currently outdoing itself. The city’s reparations committee has just adopted a proposal to give $5 million — and grant debt forgiveness — to all long-time black residents who can prove descent from slaves. It is a gesture, and one that is unlikely to be adopted at a time when the state is under severe fiscal stress. The city isn’t in much better shape either; San Francisco now stands as among the least recovered of America’s core cities after the pandemic.

Yet as gestures go, this is a particularly baffling one. Slavery was never allowed in California and San Francisco, in particular, was a bastion of pro-Union sentiment. Black Americans never formed a large part of the city’s population but it was hardly off-limits to their ambitions. Indeed, the most important San Francisco politician in the late 20th Century was Willie Brown, who served as the Assembly’s first African American speaker for 15 years and, later, as Mayor for eight years.


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More recently, as the city has become ever more “enlightened”, conditions for African Americans have deteriorated. San Francisco’s black population has a lower income on average than African Americans in the nation overall. Some of this decline reflects a job market that has seen a huge drop in manufacturing and traditional business service employment. The big gains, at least pre-pandemic, were among college-educated techies, who tend to be overwhelmingly either white or Asian.

The gaps in real income and homeownership are particularly large: Sun Belt hubs like Atlanta surrounding smaller metropolitan areas may be short on political correctness but remain higher in opportunities. Nor is the region doing much to make life better for the next generation. The test scores for San Francisco’s black students are the worst of any California county.

Unsurprisingly, many African Americans really are fleeing the city. In a recent UC Berkeley poll, 58% of black residents expressed interest in leaving California, a higher percentage than for any racial group, though approximately 45% of Asians and Latinos also considered moving. 

But even in the California context, San Francisco is experiencing a remarkable demographic shift. Since 1990 the city’s black population has been cut in half, to less than 6%, despite the overall growth in the city in the decades before the pandemic. The situation is so severe that there’s even a movie called The Last Black Man in San Francisco that talks about the fading role of African Americans in the famous city.

Of course, if the average African American can count on $5 million and cancellation of debts, they might be persuaded to stay. But given the fiscal realities, this latest exercise in extreme virtue signalling will likely amount to less than nothing. In California, and in San Francisco particularly, this approach of empty moral grandstanding still reigns supreme. It might be greedily embraced by the supposedly enlightened but, to the marginalised, it provides little solace.

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Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
19 days ago

Maybe compensation for Chinese Americans who came to California as indentured labourers? And compensation for Japense-Americans, interned during WWII? And comepnsation for California’s Jewish population, whose entry to Stanford was restricted in the 1950s? These were all shocking injustices and arguably, trump the other claims mentioned in the article.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
19 days ago

Good point. Where does it end? The Chinese have a legit case here, which should be bolstered by this policy. I might be wrong, but I think the Japanese interns may have been compensated already.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
19 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Thanks for the heads-up. I just read up on Wikipedia about the compensation scheme for the egregious injustice suffered by the Japanese-Americans:

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which officially apologized for the incarceration on behalf of the U.S. government and authorized a payment of $20,000 (equivalent to $46,000 in 2021) to each former detainee who was still alive when the act was passed.

In fairness, the same scheme should be offered to those affected by slavery – $46,000 to each slave still alive today, pro-rated for each year spent in slavery.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
19 days ago

Reparations are a bad idea. Period. They don’t make the poor wealthy and they make the middle class and wealthy even richer.

And it creates an entire industry of lawyer and financial grifters who feed off the poor.

I’ve seen it before in a community where I worked. Members of a native band with oil reserves would each get $100,000 when they turned 18.

Despite all this oil wealth and money, it was one of the poorest native communities in the province, with massive disparities in income and incredible social misery.

What happens is the poor families get their cash every year and blow it on new cars and trinkets. They don’t invest it or use it to start new businesses. They spend it.

I assume the $5 mill will be paid out in increments over say 10 years and you have to be 18 before you get your first payment.
.
Instead of waiting each year for their payments, lawyers will offer these families 50 cents on the dollar to get all their money at once, or for the families with children who aren’t eligible to cash in yet.

The grifters cash in big time and it really doesn’t change the financial position of anyone.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
18 days ago

> to each slave still alive today
lol

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
14 days ago

“$20,000 (equivalent to $46,000 in 2021) to each former detainee who was still alive when the act was passed.”
Rather more than the POWs imprisoned, tortured and starved by the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII.
They belatedly got £10,000 from the UK government in the 1990s (if they were still alive – too late for my father).

Last edited 14 days ago by Rocky Martiano
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
18 days ago

How about the American soldiers who fought in the American Revolutionary War? George Washington promised them compensation but it never came through…..

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
18 days ago

Why won’t anyone address my claim for the Harrying of the North?

Northern Observer
Northern Observer
18 days ago

I would love to see a Western Government pass an Act of Parliament retroactively rescinding all Parliamentary apologies issued by the House since 1950.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
19 days ago

California is becoming such an unlivable, expensive crap hole that even the radical progressive will be leaving soon, bringing their bad ideas to new communities.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
19 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I hate to break it to you, but they have been doing that for the last twenty years and it’s not just their politics that suck when they move in.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
19 days ago

Let’s see. Neither me nor my daddy owned slaves and neither you nor your daddy picked cotton. Guess I don’t owe you anything.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
19 days ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

And if your greatgranddaddy owned slaves the money has all been spent.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
18 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

And if your greatgranddaddy was a slave who went on to own slaves??? Certainly in the Caribbean!

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
18 days ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

All any of us alive now owe each other is respect, support and recognition as fellow unique humans in a tight spot.

Northern Observer
Northern Observer
19 days ago

These events are so frequent now that I am coming to believe that Liberalism is an illusion and that underneath all political and ideological names and identities there lurks a hard primordial truth that all politics are race politics, all politics are ethnic politics, all politics are religious politics. Call it the Samuel P Huntington was right thesis.
We lived through a 300 year period where Liberalism and British ethnic interest were one and the same. As the World’s british ethnicities decline demographically – Canada, Australia, UK, – global Liberalism is increasingly vulnerable to being overthrown and replace with new ethno political models. Afro Socialism for example. Latino Paternalism is another model. Pakistani Islamism would be another.
It really does put one into a Biblical frame of mind. Woe be to those who forget that numbers rule the World, for they will lose theirs and pass into another.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
19 days ago

I’m not sure I follow. It doesn’t look like there is a single black member on city council.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
18 days ago

Perhaps that’s why, coincidentally, Michael Savage, a San Francisco resident and talk show host, coined the phrase, “Liberalism is a mental disorder.”

Bob Smalser
Bob Smalser
18 days ago

Grifters gotta grift. The state that never allowed slaves will take from people who never owned slaves to give to people who never were slaves. Makes perfect lib sense.

Stephen Quilley
Stephen Quilley
18 days ago

Progressives really are every more despicable. If only the Republicans would really embrace the working class and aim for the widest distribution of wealth and property, and a society based on marriage, family, households, autonomous communities, subsidiarity and a strong civic-national framework, starting with border security and national service…..I think they would sweep all before them

Bob Smalser
Bob Smalser
18 days ago

Reparations? Sorry. Paid at the office with 600,000 Union dead and maimed. The companionship and wealth of the descendants of my family’s many casualties have been denied. I have a better case for charging you.

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
18 days ago

Perhaps given the state of the world we should consider that the past is/was a different country and invest instead in a future for everyone?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
18 days ago
Reply to  Alison Tyler

That makes too much sense for today’s world. But then again, the state of the world hasn’t really changed much over the last 5,000 years, has it?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
18 days ago

In all this talk of reparations why is there never any mention of how much has to be paid before forgiveness is possible?

Peter Grajczak
Peter Grajczak
18 days ago

What a great idea: those who have never been slaves should be compensated by those who never owned a slave.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
17 days ago

At least some of the potential recipients of $5M per capita reparations, will themselves also be SF taxpayers. Doesn’t someone need to calculate the per capita contribution to the reparations on the part of each SF taxpayer, in order to rebate that amount to the recipients (who otherwise would be forced to pay in part for their own reparations)?

E. L. Herndon
E. L. Herndon
17 days ago

Adjusted for today, is that really the going rate for “Forty acres, and a mule”? (The promise of the 1860’s)