A Chicago suburb is slated to become the first American city to offer reparations to their black residents. But now some activists are saying the city’s plans do not go far enough to pay for past racial transgressions.
What is the background?
Evanston, Illinois, a city about 12 miles north of downtown Chicago, approved a plan in 2019 to “financially compensate its black residents to address the wealth and opportunity gaps they have experienced because of historical racism and discrimination,” NBC News reported.
The city plans to pay for reparation payments using tax revenue collected from sales of recreational marijuana. Evanston pledged to spend $10 million on reparations over a 10-year period.
What is happening now?
City leaders recently unveiled plans for the Restorative Housing Reparations, the first round of reparations payments. According to WLS-TV, the program “would distribute up to $25,000 for housing per eligible resident.”
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To qualify for Evanston’s reparations program, Black residents must have either lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 and suffered from housing discrimination, or be a direct descendant of someone who did.
It was during that period that Evanston’s Black families suffered from redlining and other discriminatory housing policies that prevented them from purchasing property in desirable neighborhoods, Dino Robinson, a historian and the founder of the Shorefront Legacy Center, told Newsweek.
However, community activists who spoke to WSL say the reparation plans don’t go nearly far enough.
- Reparations are meant to close the racial wealth gap. The program that the City of Evanston is offering does not do that,” community activist Kevin Brown said.
- “This housing program is not what reparations mean. It’s not all-inclusive,” Sebastian Nall, an organizer for Evanston Rejects Racist Reparations, said.
- “Just putting money into a loan is not true reparations,” Sarah Bogan of Evanston Fight for Black Lives said.
Meanwhile, Rev. Michael Nabors, the president of the Evanston NAACP, told Newsweek that no amount of money will ever redress the harm that racism and discrimination caused generations of black families.
“[W]hen it’s all said and done, however much money is raised for reparations… will only be a drop in the bucket for the suffering and the oppression that Black people experienced in this nation,” Nabors said. “There is no amount of money in the world that can take the place of the pain and the suffering that was caused emotionally, that was caused psychologically.”
The Evanston City Council will officially vote on the housing reparations program on March 22.
Despite some activists who say the program is not sufficient, Ron Daniels, convener of the National African American Reparations Commission, told NBC News the program does, in fact, qualify as reparations.
“This is reparations,” Daniels said. “The city of Evanston is in the process of making repairs for this special category of harm.”
“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,” Daniels added. “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.”