What’s the next step for Black reparations in San Francisco?
A crowd listens to speakers at a reparations rally outside of City Hall in San Francisco, Tuesday, March 14, 2023. Supervisors in San Francisco are taking up a draft reparations proposal that includes a $5 million lump-sum payment for every eligible Black person. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
By Janie Har in San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco supervisors have backed the idea of paying reparations to Black people, but whether members will agree to lump-sum payments of $5 million to every eligible person or to any of the more than 100 other recommendations made by an advisory committee won’t be known until later this year.
The idea of Black reparations is not new, but the federal government’s promise of granting 40 acres and a mule to newly freed slaves was never realized. It wasn’t until George Floyd, a Black man, was killed in police custody in 2020 that reparations movements began spreading in earnest across the country.
The state of California and the cities of Boston and San Francisco are among jurisdictions trying to atone not just for chattel slavery, but for decades of racist policies and laws that systemically denied Black Americans access to property, education and the ability to build generational wealth.
WHAT IS THE ARGUMENT FOR REPARATIONS IN SAN FRANCISCO?
Black migration to San Francisco soared in the 1940s because of shipyard work, but racially restrictive covenants and redlining limited where people could live. When Black residents were able to build a thriving neighborhood in the Fillmore, government redevelopment plans in the 1960s forced out residents, stripped them of their property and decimated Black-owned businesses, advocates say.
Today, fewer than 6% of San Francisco residents are Black yet they make up nearly 40% of the city’s homeless population.
Supporters include the San Francisco NAACP, although it said the board should reject the $5 million payments and focus instead on reparations through education, jobs, housing, health care and a cultural center for Black people in San Francisco. The president of the San Francisco branch is the Rev. Amos C. Brown, who sits on both the statewide and San Francisco reparations panels.
WHAT IS THE ARGUMENT AGAINST REPARATIONS?
Critics say California and San Francisco never endorsed chattel slavery, and there is no one alive today who owned slaves or was enslaved. It is not fair for municipal taxpayers, some of whom are immigrants, to shoulder the cost of structural racism and discriminatory government policies, critics say.
An estimate from Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, which leans conservative, has said it would cost each non-Black family in San Francisco at least $600,000 in taxes to pay for the costliest of the recommendations: The $5 million per-person payout, guaranteed income of at least $97,000 a year for 250 years, personal debt elimination and converting public housing into condos to sell for $1.
A 2022 Pew Research Center survey found 68% of U.S. respondents opposed reparations compared with 30% in favor. Nearly 80% of Black people surveyed supported reparations. More than 90% of Republicans or those leaning Republican opposed reparations while Democrats and those leaning Democratic were divided.
HOW WILL SAN FRANCISCO PAY FOR THIS?
It’s not clear. The advisory committee that made the recommendations says it is not its job to figure out how to finance San Francisco’s atonement and repair.
That would be up to local politicians, two of whom expressed interest Tuesday in taking the issue to voters. San Francisco Supervisor Matt Dorsey said he would back a ballot measure to enshrine reparations in the San Francisco charter as part of the budget. Shamann Walton, the supervisor leading the charge on reparations, supports that idea.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OTHER REPARATIONS RECOMMENDATIONS?
Recommendations in education include establishing an Afrocentric K-12 school in San Francisco; hiring and retaining Black teachers; mandating a core Black history and culture curriculum; and offering cash to at-risk students for hitting educational benchmarks.
Recommendations in health include free mental health, prenatal care and rehab treatment for impoverished Black San Franciscans, victims of violent crimes and formerly incarcerated people.
The advisory committee also recommends prioritizing Black San Franciscans for job opportunities and training, as well as finding ways to incubate Black businesses.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
There is no deadline for supervisors to agree on a path forward. The board next plans to discuss reparations proposals in September, after the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee issues a final report in June.
WHAT ABOUT REPARATIONS FROM THE STATE?
In 2020, California became the first state to form a reparations task force. But nearly two years into its work, it still has yet to make key decisions on who would be eligible for payment and how much. The task force has a July 1 deadline to submit a final report of its reparations recommendations, which would then be drafted into legislation for lawmakers to consider.
The task force has spent multiple meetings discussing time frames and payment calculations for five harms experienced by Black people, including government taking of property, housing discrimination and homelessness and mass incarceration. The task force is also debating state residency requirements.
Previously, the state committee voted to limit financial reparations to people descended from enslaved or freed Black people in the U.S. as of the 19th century.
What Happened When the Georgia Governor Tried to Open the State?
From the Brownstone Institute
The journalists have fallen down on the job. To say the least.
Three years ago, all normal rights and liberties of the people were trampled on by governments everywhere. It was all for naught. The virus came and became endemic as it always would in any case. And as societies opened up gradually, we were left with unbearable carnage: economic, cultural, and public health. The damages continue to hammer the world in the form of health and economic losses, and now we face a growing financial and banking crisis.
One might assume that professional journalists would be all over this, digging into every nook and cranny to discover precisely how all this came to be. Alas, there is a weird game of pretend going on in the mainstream press: pretend lockdowns were fine, pretend the shots worked, and pretend that today’s shattered politics and economics have nothing to do with the outrageous actions that were perpetuated on people the world over.
As a result of this tremendously odd conspiracy of silence, the journalistic duty has fallen to people independent of the mainstream, writing for Brownstone, Substack, and a handful of other venues.
And yet, every once in a while, something does leak through in a large venue. That happened this weekend in the Wall Street Journal. The opinion page editor James Taranto took a trip to Georgia to talk with Governor Brian Kemp. The result is “Brian Kemp, Georgia’s Affable Culture Warrior.”
The thesis is that Kemp has been battling woke culture longer than anyone else while rarely getting the credit.
That’s interesting but not the real revelation of the piece. What it really does is dig deeply into the most interesting aspect of the last three years: how it came to be that Georgia was the first state to open following lockdowns and how the White House responded. On this subject, the piece absolutely breaks new ground, so much so that it is worth quoting the relevant passages here.
In April 2020, businesses in Georgia were shuttered by government decree as in most of the rest of the country. Mr. Kemp was hearing from desperate entrepreneurs: “ ‘Look man, we’re losing everything we’ve got. We can’t keep doing this.’ And I really felt like there was a lot of people fixin’ to revolt against the government.”
The Trump administration “had that damn graph or matrix or whatever that you had to fit into to be able to do certain things,” Mr. Kemp recalls. “Your cases had to be going down and whatever. Well, we felt like we met the matrix, and so I decided to move forward and open up.” He alerted Vice President Mike Pence, who headed the White House’s coronavirus task force, before publicly announcing his intentions on April 20.
That afternoon Mr. Trump called Mr. Kemp, “and he was furious.” Mr. Kemp recounts the conversation as follows:
“Look, the national media’s all over me about letting you do this,” Mr. Trump said. “And they’re saying you don’t meet whatever.”
Mr. Kemp replied: “Well, Mr. President, we sent your team everything, and they knew what we were doing. You’ve been saying the whole pandemic you trust the governors because we’re closest to the people. Just tell them you may not like what I’m doing, but you’re trusting me because I’m the governor of Georgia and leave it at that. I’ll take the heat.”
“Well, see what you can do,” the president said. “Hair salons aren’t essential and bowling alleys, tattoo parlors aren’t essential.”
“With all due respect, those are our people,” Mr. Kemp said. “They’re the people that elected us. They’re the people that are wondering who’s fighting for them. We’re fixin’ to lose them over this, because they’re about to lose everything. They are not going to sit in their basement and lose everything they got over a virus.”
Mr. Trump publicly attacked Mr. Kemp: “He went on the news at 5 o’clock and just absolutely trashed me. . . . Then the local media’s all over me—it was brutal.” The president was still holding daily press briefings on Covid. “After running over me with the bus on Monday, he backed over me on Tuesday,” Mr. Kemp says. “I could either back down and look weak and lose all respect with the legislators and get hammered in the media, or I could just say, ‘You know what? Screw it, we’re holding the line. We’re going to do what’s right.’ ” He chose the latter course. “Then on Wednesday, him and [Anthony] Fauci did it again, but at that point it didn’t really matter. The damage had already been done there, for me anyway.”
The damage healed quickly once businesses began reopening on Friday, April 24. Mr. Kemp quotes a state lawmaker who said in a phone call: “I went and got my hair cut, and the lady that cuts my hair wanted me to tell you—and she started crying when she told me this story—she said, ‘You tell the governor I appreciate him reopening, to allow me to make a choice, because . . . if I’d have stayed closed, I had a 95% chance of losing everything I’ve ever worked for. But if I open, I only had a 5% chance of getting Covid. And so I decided to open, and the governor gave me that choice.’ ”
At that point, Florida was still shut down. Mr. DeSantis issued his first reopening order on April 29, nine days after Mr. Kemp’s. On April 28, the Florida governor had visited the White House, where, as CNN reported, “he made sure to compliment the President and his handling of the crisis, praise Trump returned in spades.”
Three years later, here’s the thanks Mr. DeSantis gets: This Wednesday Mr. Trump issued a statement excoriating “Ron DeSanctimonious” as “a big Lockdown Governor on the China Virus.” As Mr. Trump now tells the tale, “other Republican Governors did MUCH BETTER than Ron and, because I allowed them this ‘freedom,’ never closed their States. Remember, I left that decision up to the Governors!”
What’s utterly remarkable here is that readers gain an inside look into the difficult spot into which Trump’s White House had placed Republican governors. The whole machinery of DC had been marshaled with Trump’s approval. The order read: “indoor and outdoor venues where people can congregate should be closed.” He issued this order on March 16 and expected full compliance, and then lobbied for trillions in welfare to the states to make sure they stayed locked down.
Only South Dakota with Kristy Noem refused. And for that she was dragged through the mud of media lies for two years because she allowed motorcyclists, for example, to organize and ride in her state. The fake studies coming out about the Sturgis bike rallies set a new low standard for real-time science.
Georgia is important because it was the first state to open. Trump tweeted his opposition to this move both in general and then, two weeks later, in opposition to Kemp’s opening.
Every bit of documentation absolutely contradicts Trump’s claim that he “left that decision up to the Governors” as a matter of his own intention. It was his intention to achieve what he later bragged he had done, which is “turned it off.”
I won’t belabor this anymore because we’ve covered this in more detail here and here.
And yet for weeks now, Trump has been telling visitors to Mar-a-Lago, and his coterie has backed him up, that he never locked down and only people like Kemp and DeSantis did this over his objections. Daily I get calls from people who are stunned that this outright attempt to falsify history is happening. But these days, it is just part of public life, I suppose.
This is why we must be grateful for people like Taranto for digging more deeply into the actual history of what happened in those fateful months from 2020 when life itself was completely upended by dreadful decision-making from the White House. If we had more journalists interested in what actually happened, rather than just pretending that either what happened was perfectly normal or that it didn’t happen at all, we would be far closer to getting to the truth, and making sure that such a calamity never repeats itself.
Key takeaways from AP’s report on China’s influence in Utah
In a letter photographed Feb. 13, 2022, Utah professor Taowen Le sent a letter to Utah Gov. Spencer Cox in 2022 urging him to meet with a Chinese ambassador. Le is among China’s most vocal advocates in the state. An investigation found that China’s global influence campaign has been surprisingly robust and successful in Utah. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)
By Alan Suderman And Sam Metz in Salt Lake City
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — China’s global influence campaign has been surprisingly robust and successful in Utah, an investigation by The Associated Press has found.
The world’s most powerful communist country and its U.S.-based advocates have spent years building relationships with Utah officials.
Legislators in the deeply conservative and religious state have responded by delaying legislation Beijing didn’t like, nixing resolutions that conveyed displeasure with China’s actions and expressing support in ways that enhanced the Chinese government’s image.
The AP’s investigation relied on dozens of interviews with key players and the review of hundreds of pages of records, text messages and emails obtained through public records’ requests.
Beijing’s success in Utah shows “how pervasive and persistent China has been in trying to influence America,” said Frank Montoya Jr., a retired FBI counterintelligence agent who lives in Utah.
“Utah is an important foothold,” he said. “If the Chinese can succeed in Salt Lake City, they can also make it in New York and elsewhere.”
Here are some key takeaways:
LEGISLATIVE AND PR VICTORIES
The AP review found that China and its advocates won frequent legislative and public relations victories in Utah.
Utah lawmakers recorded videos of themselves expressing words of encouragement for the citizens of Shanghai in early 2020, which experts said likely helped the Chinese Communist Party with its messaging.
The request came from a Chinese official as the government was scrambling to tamp down public fury at communist authorities for reprimanding a young doctor, who later died, over his warnings about the dangers posed by COVID-19.
Around the same time, Utah officials were thrilled when China’s authoritarian leader Xi Jinping sent a letter to fourth grade students in Utah. A Republican legislator said on the state Senate floor that he “couldn’t help but think how amazing it was” that Xi would take the time to write such a “remarkable” letter. Another GOP senator gushed on his conservative radio show that Xi’s letter “was so kind and so personal.”
The letter was heavily covered in Chinese state media, which quoted Utah students calling Xi a kind “grandpa” — a familiar trope in Chinese propaganda.
State lawmakers have frequently visited China, where they are often quoted in state-owned media in ways that support Beijing’s agenda.
“Utah is not like Washington D.C.,” then-Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, told the Chinese state media outlet in 2018 as the former president ratcheted up pressure on China over trade. “Utah is a friend of China, an old friend with a long history.”
Utah Republican Sen. Jake Anderegg told the AP he was interviewed by the FBI after introducing a 2020 resolution expressing solidarity with China in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. It won nearly unanimous approval. A similar resolution, proposed by a Chinese diplomat, was publicly rejected by Wisconsin’s Senate.
Anderegg said the language was provided to him by Dan Stephenson, the son of a former state senator and employee of a China-based consulting firm.
Stephenson and another Utah resident, Taowen Le, are among China’s most vocal advocates in Utah.
Both men have supported and sought to block resolutions, set up meetings between Utah lawmakers and Chinese officials, accompanied legislators on trips to China and provided advice on the best way to cultivate favor with Beijing, according to emails and interviews. Both have ties to what experts say are front groups for Beijing.
After embassy officials tried unsuccessfully last year to get staff for Utah Gov. Spencer Cox to schedule a get-together with China’s ambassador to the U.S., Le sent the governor a personal plea to take such a meeting.
“I still remember and cherish what you told me at the New Year Party held at your home,” Le wrote in a letter adorned with pictures of him and Cox posing together. “You told me that you trusted me to be a good messenger and friendship builder between Utah and China.”
Both men said their advocacy on China-related issues were self directed and not at the Chinese government’s behest. Le told AP he has been interviewed twice over the years by the FBI.
The FBI declined to comment.
Security experts say that China’s campaign is widespread and tailored to local communities. In Utah, the AP found, Beijing and pro-China advocates appealed to lawmakers’ affiliations with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, better known as the Mormon church, which is the state’s dominant religion and one that has long dreamed of expanding in China.
Le, who converted to the church decades ago, has quoted scripture from the Bible and the Book of Mormon in his emails and letters to lawmakers, and sprinkled in positive comments that Russell Nelson, the church’s president-prophet, has made about China.
PART OF BROADER TREND
Beijing’s success in Utah is part of a broader trend of targeting “sub-national” governments, like states and cities, experts say.
It is not unusual for countries, including the U.S., to engage in local diplomacy. U.S. officials and security experts have stressed that many Chinese language and cultural exchanges have no hidden agendas. However, they said, few nations have so aggressively courted local leaders across the globe in ways that raise national security concerns.
In its annual threat assessment released earlier this month, the U.S. intelligence community reported that China is “redoubling” its local influence campaign in the face of stiffening resistance at the national level. Beijing believes, the report said, that “local officials are more pliable than their federal counterparts.”
Authorities in other countries, including Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, have sounded similar alarms.
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington told the AP that China “values its relationship with Utah” and any “words and deeds that stigmatize and smear these sub-national exchanges are driven by ulterior political purposes.”
Suderman reported from Washington. AP writer Fu Ting in Washington contributed to this story.
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