Evanston, Illinois is now the first U.S. city to make reparations available to Black residents for past discrimination and the impacts of slavery, according The Associated Press.
The Evanston City Council on Monday voted 8-1 to distribute a total of $400,000 in housing assistance to Black families, with each qualifying household receiving $25,000. The money can be used for a down payment on a property, home repairs, or interest or late penalties on a local property. Evanston’s reparations program is being funded by donations and revenue from a 3% tax on newly legalized marijuana sales. The City plans to disburse $10 million over the course of 10 years to Black households. Black residents in Evanston may be able to apply for reparations as early as mid-summer.
The one vote against moving forward with the reparations program came from Ald. Cicely L. Fleming, a Black woman who said she believes Black people should get reparations, but argued the money being distributed to Black citizens does not offer them enough autonomy. “Rather than reparations dictating to Black people what they need and how they will receive it, we need to listen more to the people,” Fleming said during the city council meeting. “There is no autonomy for the community that was harmed, instead of cash payments or other options that respect the humanity and self-determination of Black people, and allow them to determine how best to repair themselves, the housing program is restrictive.”
Longtime Evanston resident Cherie Adams spoke to The Chicago Sun Times and said she thinks this is something to celebrate. “I’m really disturbed by so many of the individuals who are against it,” she said. “This is not reparations for the country and chattel slavery. It’s just a way for the city to recognize that there were discrepancies in housing, and this is a way that we can give back into the Black community.”
This news comes as the nation continues to grapple with how to end systemic racism following the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and others. President Joe Biden has indicated that he will support establishing a federal commission to study Black reparations.