The city of Evanston, Illinois, north of Chicago, is believed to be the first place in the United States to provide redress to Black residents after its city council approved a plan to combat racial discrimination in housing on Monday. Kamil Krzaczynski / AFP via Getty Images Hide caption
Kamil Krzaczynski / AFP via Getty Images
Kamil Krzaczynski / AFP via Getty Images
The city of Evanston, Illinois will provide redress for eligible black residents for damage known as “discriminatory housing policies and practices and inaction by the city.” The program is believed to be the first of its kind in the US and is viewed by proponents as a potential national model.
Evanston City Council voted 8-1 on Monday to approve the Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program, an official confirmed to NPR via email. It will grant eligible households up to $ 25,000 for down payments or home repairs after cityand is the first urban repair fund initiative founded in 2019.
“The program is a step towards revitalization, maintenance and stabilization [Black] Condominiums in Evanston, increasing home ownership and building wealth from [Black] Residents, building equality between generations among [Black] Residents and improvement in the retention rate of [Black] Homeowners in the town of Evanston, “reads a Draft resolution.
In November 2019 the city council set up a reparations fund Supporting initiatives to eradicate historic prosperity and the gaps in opportunity for black residents, funded by the first $ 10 million revenue from the city’s tax on recreational marijuana sales. The housing program is initially estimated at $ 400,000.
Robin Rue Simmons, an alder woman and reparations program architect, said NPR In 2019, the plan aimed to resolve a few issues the community was facing: Black residents were disproportionately arrested and priced out of their homes for marijuana possession violations.
“We have a huge and unfortunate void in terms of wealth, opportunity, education, and even life expectancy,” she said. “The fact that we have a $ 46,000 gap between Census Tract 8092, the historic red neighborhood I live and was born in, and the average white household has led me to a very radical one To seek a solution to a problem we have not been able to solve: reparations. “
Living as the top priority
City officials wrote that affordable housing and economic development were the top priorities that were set in a series of meetings with parishioners on what these reparations should look like. Historical evidence made clear the link between the city’s actions and the suffering they caused, they added.
“The strongest case for Evanston City of redress is in the housing sector, where there is ample evidence that the city was involved in housing discrimination based on the early urban area ordinances in force between 1919 and 1969 when the city banned housing Discrimination, “they wrote.
As part of their investigative efforts, officials commissioned a historical report about urban policies and practices that affect black residents from 1900 to 1960 and to this day. The 77-page report, written by Dino Robinson Jr. of the Shorefront Legacy Center and Jenny Thompson of the Evanston History Center, described decades of segregationist and discriminatory practices in areas such as housing, employment, education, and policing.
The authors wrote that these policies not only adversely affected the daily lives and well-being of thousands of city dwellers, but also dictated their professions, wealth, education, and property in a way that shaped their families for generations.
“While the guidelines, practices, and patterns may have evolved over these generations, their effects have been cumulative and permanent,” the authors wrote. “They were the means by which legacies were limited and denied.”
To qualify for the program, individuals must have either lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 or be a direct descendant of someone who did so. Under the program guidelines, individuals who do not meet these criteria can apply if they can demonstrate that they experienced housing discrimination based on city policies or practices after 1969.
City officials plan to implement the program in early to midsummer, and say more details will be released by then.
The national conversation about reparations
The program is backed by national racial justice organizations advocating for reparations, including the National Black Coalition for Restitution in America and the National African American Reparations Commission, the city said.
Proponents hope this will encourage similar legal protection efforts in other parts of the county. Ron Daniels, the president of NAARC, said The Washington Post “Right now, the whole world is looking at Evanston, Illinois.”
Dreisen Heath, a racial justice attorney and researcher with Human Rights Watch, wrote in one Twitter thread “While local remedies are not a substitute for federal action,” they are still important given the damage done to black communities by different levels of government.
“What happened in[Evanston] Today is historic and will help find a way for other cities, “wrote Heath.” It should be treated as such, knowing that the city of Evanston and the whole country still have a long way to go. “
1 / There is a lot of misinformation out there about #reparations in the public. There is absolutely no substitute for what the federal government owes descendants of enslaved Africans in the EU #USHowever, there have also been violations at the local, state and institutional levels.
– Dreisenheath (@dreisenheath) March 23, 2021
Still, the program is not without its critics.
The vote against on the city council came from Cicely Fleming, an alder woman who is black and traces her Evanston lineage back to the early 1900s. In a long ExplanationShe said she fully supported the reparation but denounced the initiative as “a disguised housing plan”.
She said the plan allowed limited participation and did not give the damaged community enough autonomy – unlike cash payments, for example, where people can choose what is best for them. (According to the city’s website, it has no authority to exempt direct payments from state or federal income taxes, which means that recipients of such grants would be liable for the tax burden.)
Some of Fleming’s other criticisms are that the proposal is put to a vote without enough time to express and resolve concerns from community members, and that its limited scope is insufficient to lay the groundwork for longer-term efforts .
“We can talk more about the program details, but I reject the definition of this program as a ‘reparations’ program,” she said in her remarks. “Until the structure and the conditions are in the hands of the people – we have missed the mark.”
Approval of the program comes to the theme of reparation – for the harms of slavery and subsequent generations of racial discrimination – and continues to gain prominence and debate in American society.
An opinion poll published last augustAfter a summer marked by nationwide protests against racial injustice, 80% of black Americans found the federal government should compensate the descendants of enslaved people, compared with 21% of white Americans.
Reparations are also a topic of conversation at the federal level, where HR 40Legislation to create a commission to investigate and develop reparation proposals for Black Americans has sparked renewed interest since its inception in 2019.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said that President Joe Biden supported the idea of investigating the matter but did not say whether he would sign such a bill if passed by Congress.