Evanston, IL – The Chicago suburb of Evanston on Monday became the first city in the United States to make reparations for discrimination available to black residents.
The Evanston City Council voted 8 to 1 on March 22 to distribute $400,000 to eligible African American households in its community, NBC News reported.
The program allocates $25,000 for home repairs or for a down payment on a home purchase to each qualifying black family.
Funding for the program will come from donations and a three percent tax on the sale of recreational marijuana, NBC News reported.
Evanston lawmakers pledge to pay $10 million in reparations to qualified black residents over the next 10 years.
To qualify for reparations, a black resident must have lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 or be a direct descendant of a black person who lived there then and suffered housing discrimination as a result of the city’s redlining policies, NBC News reported.
Black residents make up about 16 percent of Evanston’s 75,000-person population, according to The Washington Post.
Evanston Alderman Rue Simmons, who initially proposed the reparations program, said that pro-reparations groups have offered pro-bono help if the reparations plan is challenged in court, NBC News reported.
“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.
Simmons initially introduced the reparations program to the city council in 2019 but the council did not act on it until this month, NBC News reported.
Evanston city leaders ultimately decided to address reparations for housing discrimination first because of a 2020 report that showed the city had restricted where black residents could live since the first person of color moved to town in 1855, The Washington Post reported.
“Over the decades, policies, practices, and patterns of discrimination and segregation took place,” the report said.
Discrimination and segregation “not only impacted the daily lives and well-being of thousands of Evanston residents, but they also had a material effect on occupations, education, wealth, and property,” according to the report.
Evanston Alderman Cicely Fleming was the lone vote against the proposal because she said was a housing program more than a reparations plan.
Fleming said the program was paternalistic and assumed black people didn’t know how to manage their money, NBC News reported.
She said they should be allowed to decide on their own how their grievances are repaired.
But Simmons disagreed with Fleming’s negativity, The Washington Post reported.
“It’s a first tangible step,” she said. “It is alone not enough. It is not full repair alone in this one initiative. But we all know that the road to repair injustice in the black community will be a generation of work… I’m excited to know more voices will come to the process.”
The issues of reparations has been on the forefront nationally with supporters demanding financial restitution and an apology from the government, The Washington Post reported.
“Right now the whole world is looking at Evanston, Illinois,” National African American Reparations Commission President Ron Daniels said. “This is a moment like none other that we’ve ever seen, and it’s a good moment.”
The commission wants reparations for black Americans at both local and federal levels, The Washington Post reported.
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held a hearing to address slavery reparations at a federal level in February.
House Resolution 40 has floated for decades in Congress without any concrete movement, The Washington Post reported.
Daniels projected that HR 40 had enough votes to pass in the House but the legislation is expected to face massive pushback in the U.S. Senate chamber.
The Biden administration has not committed the President to signing the reparations bill, if passed, The Washington Post reported.
Daniels said that Evanston can serve as a “blueprint” for what needed to be done everywhere.
But reparations advocates are ultimately after a federal reparations law that would grant access to more monetary resources, The Washington Post reported.