City Launches Reparations in a US First

Evanston program addresses housing discrimination
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 23, 2021 1:43 PM CDT
City Launches Reparations in a US First
Evanston Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, shown in 2019, said much more is needed.   (Genevieve Bookwalter/Chicago Tribune via AP)

The nation's first government reparations program has been approved, with a promise to distribute $10 million over the next decade to Black residents who suffered housing discrimination or their descendants. The City Council of Evanston, just north of Chicago, voted 8-1 Monday to implement the program, Rolling Stone reports. As much as $25,000 will go to those who are eligible, to be used for a down payment on a home, mortgage and interest, late penalties, improvements, and other expenses. The first round of payments will go to 16 households, per WLS, which reports that the qualifying period involves the years 1919 and after. Evanston's financial institutions have a history of redlining, and real estate agents steered Black residents to certain neighborhoods through at least the mid-1980s. The money will come from a Reparations Fund established by the City Council that is funded by a 3% tax on recreational pot.

The program's supporters agree it's not the entire answer. "It is, alone, not enough. We all know that the road to repair and justice in the Black community is going to be a generation of work," said Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, who proposed reparations in 2019. Some oppose tying the payments to housing, arguing the money will end up back in the hands of the banks that were behind the discriminatory practices to begin with. Alderwoman Cicely Fleming, who supports reparations but not this plan, said: "There’s no way I could go to African Americans in Mississippi who have experienced true racial terror and tell their city councils to do the same as what we're doing with housing. I would be mortified." The plan reinforces the stereotype that poor people "can't handle their money," Fleming said, adding that the initiative isn't really reparations. (Jesuit priests are raising $100 million for reparations.)

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