I think San Francisco first started the conversation about providing reparations to descendants of slaves
in America. For a city that hasn’t the money to fix a chronic homeless problem, a task force has
recommended paying out up to five million dollars to eligible blacks in the city. An amount that could
reach upwards of $175 Billion Dollars.
Let’s get real here, this plan, no matter what the media might portray, is pretty much dead on arrival.
San Franscico with a budget deficit of $750 million dollars and a collapsing real estate market is hardly in
a position to write checks for five dollars in reparations per person, let alone five million.
That doesn’t mean the idea doesn’t have merit or worth a conversation. Truth is, the black community
has been disadvantaged and held back from the American dream and wealth creation since the end of
the civil war. Government sanctioned policies such as red lining and separate yet equal have prevented blacks
from becoming upwardly mobile.
Government has tried to correct some of these issue without doing a very good job of it. Red Lining, a
government practice of withholding federal home financing in certain neighborhoods, has created crime
ridden slums in some cities. When these derelict areas threatened the property values in predominantly
white areas, what was the answer? Cut them off with a freeway or highway interchange.
To be fair there was some good legislation; the ending of red lining, the 1964 civil rights act, affirmative
action and the striking down of separate but equal, that was really only separate and never equal.
Unfortunately, the damage was done. Freeways still cut through racially charged neighborhoods.
Poverty, drugs and incarceration are higher in the black communities than any other. That brings us back to San
Francisco reparations idea.
Maybe there is another way to look at how to provide parity to the black community without handing
out five million dollar checks. How about low interest loans to build, repair and own housing in the
predominantly black communities? Maybe low interest loans and grants to buy housing.
Areas where freeways have been used to cut communities why not reroute them and create parks to
join back neighborhoods. Government has been very creative over the century in redeveloping
abandoned industrial sites and unused sea ports, why not turn attention to the inner cities and the
citizens that live in them. Up until now, inner city redevelopment has been seen as gentrification and the
pushing out of back citizens. Why not make redevelopment about black citizens by improving the
neighborhoods for them?
There is no easy answer to end poverty or homelessness. San Francisco’s reparations task force if
nothing else, pointed out the scale of the disparity. If reparations could be targeted in making cities
better, not only do black citizens win, we all win.
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