Evanston, Illinois became the first United States city to approve and pass reparations for African-American citizens last week.
After heightened talks of paying reparations to the African-American community in response to the death of George Floyd last summer, a town in Illinois took the first step in approval of the controversial move. The Evanston City Council approved the “Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program and Program Budget” resolution by an 8-1 vote last Monday.
Though talks of reparations have been largely increased since summer of last year, this push is part of a bill first introduced in 2019. Officials in Evanston said the program will give up to 16 Black families in Evanston $25,000 in funds to use for the purpose of buying or improving homes, as well as assistance with mortgage payments.
This would be the first program of its kind ever enacted in the United States. Evanston City Council Alderman Melissa Wynne says “I think this step is going to pull all of America forward, and it’s really critical we take that first step.” According to NBC News, the city voted to approve a measure in 2019 that would “financially compensate its Black residents to address the wealth and opportunity gaps they have experienced because of historical racism.” According to NBC News, residents must either have lived in, or been a direct descendent of a Black person who lived in Evanston from 1919 to 1969 and suffered discrimination in housing because of city ordinances, policies or practices to be eligible to apply for the funds.
At a staggering $10 million dollars, tax revenues from legalized marijuana sales helped in part to fund this program. 5th Ward Alderman Robin Sue Simmons commented on the bill, citing, “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 voted in favor of the bill. On the contrary, Alderman Cicely Flemming was the outlying “no” vote who was ultimately trumped 8-1. Though she supports the idea of paying reparations to the Black community, she felt that this bill was rushed and there was not enough time to hear the public’s response, as the bill was made public just shortly before the decision.
Fleming had a lot to say about the bill, as well. “True reparations should respect Black people’s autonomy and allow them to determine how repair will be managed, including cash payments as an option. They are being denied that in this proposal, which gives money directly to the banks or contractors on their behalf. As a stand-alone housing program, I support this. I cannot support this plan being called ‘reparations,’” she commented. The bill has resulted in many questioning the constitutionality of the program, with potential legal obstacles looming in the wings. Evanston County officials are aware of these challenges, but remain confident that, should it go to court, they will come out victorious.
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ARTICLE: ETHAN FINN
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: TORONTO STAR