The midwestern city is the first in the country to establish reparations with a commitment of $10M over the next decade.
In Evanston, Illinois, eligible Black residents will receive reparations up to $25K as part of a commitment from the city.
ABC News reported that the city, north of Chicago, will begin issuing payments this year. 5th Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons pushed for the legislation. She was inspired to work on closing the racial wealth gap through her own experience growing up Black in Evanston and still living there through adulthood.
“Early in my childhood I was invited to have a play date,” she said to the outlet. “My white friends never had a play date at my home.”
Rue Simmons continued, “The streets were wider. The trees were taller. The homes were bigger and brighter. As a young child, I recognized that difference.”
Evanston is the first city in the United States to officially establish reparations for Black people. Those eligible will be paid up to $25K to be used towards housing.
The city committed to pay $10M over the next decade in an attempt to repay Black residents, according to the report. The alderman said the funds are intended to answer for “a lack of affordability, lack of access to living-wage careers here in the city, and a lack of sense of place.”
“I was looking at what we had done, what more we could do, and reparations was the only answer,” Rue Simmons remarked. “The only legislative response for us to reconcile the damages in the Black community is reparations.”
Local historian Dino Robinson, who founded the Shorefront Legacy Center helped support the efforts with a 70+ page report that chronicled discrimination and racism in Evanston dating back to the 1800s.
“We anticipate litigation to tie things up with the premise that ‘You cannot use tax money that’s from the public to benefit a particular group of people,’” Robinson said, referring to opposition to the city’s plan. But, he countered, “The entire Black community historically has paid taxes, but were not guaranteed the same benefits.”
According to the report, white people in Evanston make almost double the income and have double the reported net worth of their Black neighbors. Black people who have lived in the city through redlining and their descendants are eligible for the payment.
Although Evanston is the first city to make the historic move, it will hopefully not be the last. As theGrio reported, President Joe Biden has made plans to act on reparations for African-Americans. Senior advisor, Cedric Richmond, confirmed that the White House plans “to start acting now.”
“We have to start breaking down systemic racism and barriers that have held people of color back, and especially African-Americans who were enslaved,” Richmond explained, according to the report. “We have to do stuff now to improve the plights, status, and future empowerment of Black people all around the country.”
Richmond continued, “I can’t tell you if, what the time frame on the bill is, but I can tell you this. If you start talking about free college tuition to [historically Black colleges and universities] and you start talking about free community college and all of those things, I think that you are well on your way.”
According to theGrio, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee submitted H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act to uncover the lasting impact of slavery in the United States and to provide a monetary payout.
“Today there are more people at the table — more activists, more scholars, more CEOs, more state and local officials, and more Members of Congress,” she stated in a press release obtained by theGrio. “However, despite this progress and the election of the first American President of African descent, the legacy of slavery lingers heavily in this nation.”
“It’s working its way through Congress,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki, according to Politico. Biden’s administration did not testify during a hearing on Wednesday in a House Judiciary Committee subpanel on the reparations legislation. “We’d certainly support a study, but we’ll see what happens through the legislative process.”
This article contains additional reporting from theGrio’s DeMicia Inman.
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