EVANSTON, Ill. — Evanston, Illinois, on Monday became the first U.S. city to make reparations available to its Black residents for past discrimination and the lingering effects of slavery.
The Chicago suburb’s City Council voted 8-1 to distribute $400,000 to eligible black households. Each qualifying household would receive $25,000 for home repairs or down payments on property.
The program is being funded through donations and revenue from a 3% tax on the sale of recreational marijuana. The city has pledged to distribute $10 million over 10 years.
Qualifying residents must either have lived in or been a direct descendant of a Black person who lived in Evanston between 1919 to 1969 and who suffered discrimination in housing because of city ordinances, policies or practices.
Alderman Rue Simmons, who proposed the program that was adopted in 2019, said pro-reparations groups have offered pro-bono legal assistance if the program is challenged in court.
“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.
The City Council acted after dozens of citizens addressed the body and the plan received some pushback from several.
Alderman Cicely Fleming, the lone vote against the plan, said she supports reparations, but what the City Council was debating is a housing plan that is being called reparations. She said the people should dictate the terms of how their grievances are repaired. Fleming described the program as paternalistic, and it assumes Black people can’t manage their own money.
Hundreds of communities and organizations across the country are considering providing reparations to Black people. They range from the state of California to cities like Amherst, Massachusetts, Providence, Rhode Island, Asheville, North Carolina, and Iowa City, Iowa; religious denominations like the Episcopal Church; and prominent colleges like Georgetown University in Washington.
The efforts, some of which have been underway for years, have gained momentum in the wake of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd last May. President Joe Biden has even expressed support for creating a federal commission to study Black reparations, a proposal that’s languished for decades in Congress.