On Monday, Evanston, Illinois’ City Council voted 8-1 to approve the United States’ first reparations for black people, as the city plans to distribute $400,000 to qualifying households. Each household that qualifies "would receive $25,000 for home repairs or down payments on property," NBC News reported.
The city has pledged to distribute $10 million over the next 10 years in reparations, planning to fund the payments through donations and a 3% sales tax on recreational marijuana.
According to the Chicago Tribune:
To qualify, an applicant must have “origins in any of the Black racial and ethnic groups of Africa,” according to the memo. Applicants must also be a Black resident of Evanston between 1919-1969, or that person’s direct descendant.
Applicants also qualify if they experienced housing discrimination due to the city’s policies or practices after 1969.
Such qualifications may seem objective in theory, but who is to say current black residents of Evanston whose ancestors resided in the city are more deserving of reparations than a current black resident of Evanston whose ancestors lived elsewhere?
Alderman Rue Simmons, the woman who proposed the program that was initially implemented in 2019, explained its purpose.
“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,” said Simmons.
In a 1999 article on the history of segregation in Evanston, historian Andrew Wise wrote on the racial zoning that took place following the Great Migration in 1940.
"Evanston’s white real estate brokers apparently developed a practice of informal racial zoning. In effect, they treated a section of west Evanston as open to African Americans, while excluding them from the rest of town," Wise wrote.
According to NBC News, Alderman Cicely Fleming opposed the plan, despite supporting reparations. She believes the people who will be receiving the payment should decide if it's an appropriate measure to pursue. Fleming also argued that the City Council was essentially debating a housing plan rather than legitimate reparations.
We can talk more about the restorative housing program details, but I reject the very definition of this as a “reparations” program. Until the structure and terms are in the hands of the people – we have missed the mark. pic.twitter.com/UNzvoApoq6— cicely fleming (@cicelylfleming) March 22, 2021
Reparations are likely to become more prominent in American society in coming years as cities across the nation are considering payments for their black residents. President Joe Biden has expressed his support for studying reparations as Congress continues to consider a reparations bill, something they have been doing for decades.
Patch.com ranks Evanston, Illinois as the fifth best U.S. city to live in as a liberal.
For local coverage of the story, watch below: