San Francisco's Black Community Turns on NAACP President Who Criticized Reparations Plan

Rev. Amos Brown says the city's plan to pay $5 million in reparations per black resident is unrealistic

Rev. Amos Brown (YouTube).
April 5, 2023

San Francisco’s black community is turning on the president of the city’s NAACP chapter after he urged the city to pump the brakes on a plan to pay $5 million in reparations to each of its black residents.

Rev. Amos Brown caused an uproar last month when, ahead of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ first hearing on the city’s reparations plan, he publicly urged the panel to reconsider doling out large lump-sums of cash. Brown, an activist who serves on both San Francisco and Californa’s reparations councils, urged the city to pay reparations through investments in education, housing, and health care.

The black community isn’t having it, with activists calling Brown a con artist and calling for him to be stripped of his leadership role. Bishop Talbert Swan, another member of San Francisco’s NAACP chapter, called Brown’s statement "reprehensible" and a "betrayal to Black Americans."

"As a life member of the NAACP and the longest serving president in the history of my branch, I am ashamed of the position taken by the San Francisco Branch," he tweeted.

The backlash to Brown’s statement comes as San Francisco scrambles to deliver on its eagerly-anticipated reparations plan. The task force’s most recent proposal would cost each San Francisco household around $600,000, and would worsen the city’s already strained budget. Late last week, the San Francisco Controller’s Office estimated the city would face a budget shortfall of nearly $780 million—$50 million more than the office projected in January.

Brown has attempted to clarify his statement, noting that some city lawmakers had already said they would not approve $5 million in cash payments. Brown also reminded critics that the $5 million figure was completely arbitrary and insisted that the city needs a more "practical" number for cash reparations. Brown is also making the rounds in the media to stress that San Francisco shouldn’t raise expectations for a reparations plan it doesn’t think it can execute.

So far, Brown’s damage control efforts have failed. He drew harsh condemnation during the public comment period of last week’s reparations task force meeting, which he attended virtually from Ghana, where he was traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris.

"And to Dr. Brown, shame on you, absolutely, shame on you," said one woman who accused him of attempting to "blame everyone else for what you put forward, which was sabotaging this process against the descendants of slavery, black Americans in this country."

The woman proceeded to claim that he wanted funding for his own programs "that keep our people enslaved" and criticized his trip to Ghana with Harris, "whose administration has done nothing for black folks."

Meanwhile, even the chair of the San Francisco panel is downplaying its draft recommendations, which include not only $5 million per person but also 250 years of $97,000 annual subsidies for poor residents, universal debt clearance, free therapy, and more.

Chair Eric McDonnell described the plan to San Francisco’s KRON4 as an "appraisal" and said it’s up to the city to determine what is feasible and to write a financial plan.

Like San Francisco, California at large is facing a budget crisis as its reparations panel weighs proposed cash payouts that could top $800 billion, nearly triple the state’s annual budget. San Francisco and the state of California launched their reparations push in 2020 after the death of George Floyd, promising their reparations efforts would serve as a model for the nation.