Evanston, which is a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, has just become the first U.S. city to offer reparations to black people due to “historical racism and discrimination.”
Oddly the proposal that will be voted on March 22nd by the Evanston City Council doesn’t mention slavery reparations. Voters approved of this plan in 2019 and it is about to go into effect. Residents could see payments as early as this summer.
$10 million will be disbursed over the next ten years. It is funded by voluntary contributions plus a three percent tax on recreational marijuana sales. It is ostensibly a payoff for inherent racism suffered by black residents over time.
“Reparations is the most appropriate legislative response to the historic practices and the contemporary conditions of the black community. And although many of the anti-black policies have been outlawed, many remain embedded in policy, including zoning and other government practices,” stated Robin Rue Simmons, who is an alderwoman in Evanston’s 5th Ward. She’s the one who introduced the legislation. “We are in a time in history where this nation more broadly has not only the will and awareness of why reparations is due, but the heart to advance it,” Simmons proclaimed.
(Video Credit: ABC 7 Chicago)
NBC News reports:
Under the program’s first phase, qualifying residents would get $25,000 to use toward homeownership, home improvement and mortgage assistance, Simmons said. To qualify, residents must either have lived in or been a direct descendant of a Black person who lived in Evanston between 1919 to 1969 who suffered discrimination in housing because of city ordinances, policies or practices.
While Evanston passed a fair housing ordinance in 1969, redlining and overt discriminatory housing practices were sharply evident for years afterward.
Some in the black community are saying that the program shouldn’t be called “reparations.”
The group, called Evanston Rejects Racist Reparations, said in a Facebook post that the “current bill proposed by the city of Evanston never went through a racial equality, anti-capitalist process. As a result, historically racist financial institutions like banks, corporations, and various individuals, will profit from this proposal. Reparations should not be monetized.”
The group added: “We are demanding a name change to the current proposal. The current proposal is inherently anti-Black, and we reject this bill as any form of reparations.”
Sebastian Nalls, an organizer with Evanston Rejects Racist Reparations and a former mayoral candidate noted that while the group does not oppose the idea of reparations, they do have a problem with this particular program.
“This is not fully in scope and fully beneficial to the Black community,” he declared. “Reparations is not just payment towards individuals that have been targeted by inequalities, but it’s also proving the harm that took place will not take place again and ensuring that more harm will not be caused.”
“We need to change the name of the current program because just having a housing program is not reparations,” Nalls said. He thinks that residents should get direct payments and spend them however they want.
“It certainly is reparation. It is redress. It is compensation for recovery of wealth loss due to housing policies specifically,” Simmons countered.
“We’re doing what we can within our purview as a municipal government,” she said. “We don’t govern the banking industry. We do advocate that the banking industry does more to improve their practices and create fair products, but we thought it appropriate that we take the first tangible step as a city within our purview.”
The National African American Reparations Commission has called the Evanston program a model for reparations for the rest of the country.
“We see it as a positive development when people are engaged in democratic process, but it is also important to be correct in terms of the analysis and assessment of what’s actually happening,” stated Ron Daniels, who is the convener of the National African American Reparations Commission.
“This is reparations,” he posited. “The city of Evanston is in the process of making repairs for this special category of harm, but moving forward, I’m sure that the City Council and key people in the community will be looking for opportunities for these new voices who have legitimate interests and legitimate concerns to become involved in the process looking at the next round of reparation proposals.”
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