The Moral Grandstanding Behind San Francisco's Reparations Plan

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.

Read the rest of this piece at UnHerd.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.