Oakland’s Basic Income Program

By Jacqui McLean

The amount of food, clothes, or other basic necessities a family is able purchase should not be affected by the color of their skin. However, Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf helped launch a program to help families in poverty, but only if they identify as people of color or indigenous. The Oakland Resilience Family program provides a guaranteed $500 to 600 BIPOC families with at least one child who have less than half of the area’s median income. 

While the objective of the initiative is to help those in need, it is absurd to only help a certain group of people. The city has numerous residents of all backgrounds who are also living in poverty but receiving no assistance. These families are in the exact same financial situation, the only difference being race. Although Shaaf claims the initiative combats the “system failure,” disregarding non-BIPOC living in poverty promotes prejudice of its own. When it comes to putting food on the table and providing basic necessities for families, race should not be a determining factor in the assistance that they are granted.  

The rationale behind the initiative is the wealth disparity between races. However, considering the initiative is meant to target those below the poverty line, the average income by race should not play a role. The goal should instead be to limit poverty on a broad—not racial defined—scale. Additionally, the initiative also aims to help with unemployment, parenting practices, and overall health. These benefits should not only be limited to certain groups. Numerous other cities across the country have implemented similar supplementary income programs, but Oakland is the first to have racial restrictions. While this program is solely privately funded by philanthropic groups, the goal is to gain support to hopefully turn it into city policy. While I don’t have a problem with private entities doing whatever they want with their money, I don’t believe that government officials in Oakland should be involved in any way. I view Shaaf’s immense support as favoritism and fear for future policies she could enact.

If the goal of the initiative is to help combat poverty, it should be done with no racial limitations. However, if the goal is to help BIPOC and only BIPOC then it should not be supported at a government level, as certain groups will be excluded.