Evanston, Illinois is making history as the first city in the U.S. to vote to compensate its Black residents for past discrimination. However, many reparations advocates are slamming mainstream media for calling the program “reparations.”
On Monday, March 22, the City Council voted 8-1 to pay a total of $400,000 to eligible Black households, NBC News reported. Each household that qualifies will receive $25,000 to fund home repairs or assist with down payments on property.
The program – which will be funded via a 3 percent marijuana tax and donations – is available to Black residents and their descendants who lived in Evanston from 1919 to 1969 and were victims of housing discrimination.
Proposed by Alderman Rue Simmons in 2019, the program is supposed to help remedy some of the injustices. “This is set aside for an injured community that happens to be Black, that was injured by the city of Evanston for anti-Black housing policies,” Simmons said.
However, Alderman Cicely Fleming, the lone member who voted against the legislation, said the program falls short of being actual reparations, noting that “Black people deserve better” on Twitter. She released a statement elaborating on her reason for dissenting.
“Let me be clear: I am 100% in support of reparations. I come from three legacy Black families in Evanston who have suffered enough. I am one of countless such families across the country. Real reparations are long overdue,” Fleming’s statement said.
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“But what is before us tonight is a housing plan dressed up as reparations. We must understand the definition of true reparations and its main goal: to do that, the People dictate its terms to Power, not the other way around. Rather, this resolution is dictating to Black residents what they need and how they will receive what they need,” Fleming continued.
Renowned reparations scholar Sandy Darity also tweeted about the program’s shortcomings. “This is misleading. These are not direct payments. They are $25K allocations that must be used for home mortgage payments or improvements–restricted to housing alone. Median home price in Evanston is $432K. Typical down payment must be 20% of price. $25K is 6% of median price,” Darity tweeted.
Using revenue from the marijuana tax, Evanston has pledged to distribute $10 million over a 10-year period for reparations. The housing ordinance is supposed to be a first-step.
“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 said.
But some residents from Evanston share Fleming and Darity’s sentiments. “We need to change the name of the current program, because just having a housing program is not reparations,” former mayoral candidate Sebastian Nalls said. “This is not fully in scope and fully beneficial to the Black community. 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.”
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