THE first American city to fund reparations to black residents to make up for racism-related losses is providing $10million over the next 10 years.
The reparations will be distributed in increments of as much as $25,000 per resident that qualifies, to use toward housing.
Evanston passed its reparations resolution in 2019, driven primarily through the efforts of 5th Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, who is black and grew up in the city.
The $25,000 reparations funds for housing are designed to address “a lack of affordability, lack of access to living wage careers here in the city, and a lack of sense of place,” Rue Simmons said.
Reparations were originally proposed to make amends for slavery, which made many Americans wealthy, but not the blacks who did the work.
Talks around reparations have dragged on since 1865 when slavery was abolished, but blacks have largely not received what they were promised.
The reparations plan, formulated in early 1865, was to redistribute land in the southeast US to former slaves and was referred to as “40 acres and a mule.”
But the plan did not come to fruition, with President Andrew Johnson overturning the land distribution order in late 1865.
In the following decades, blacks faced policies that made it difficult for them to build wealth such as redlining, a discriminatory practice that puts services out of reach for residents due to their race.
White people living in Evanston now make almost twice as much and their homes are worth two times those in black neighborhoods, according to recent US Census data.
The black population in Evanston has become smaller due to redlining, rising property taxes and gentrification, and makes up only 16 percent.
“We’ve had much higher in the past,” Rue Simmons said.
Though reparations have yet to be paid out in Evanston, the city is far ahead of others and House Resolution 40, which was first introduced by Democratic Rep. John Conyers in 1989.
HR-40 would create a commission to study and create a plan for reparations nationwide.
Conyers reintroduced the bill every year until he resigned in 2017.
Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has carried the torch, saying that opponents have fought the bill over many years because “the idea of reparations is unworkable politically or financially.”
Lee has 173 cosponsors for the bill, all of them Democrats.
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Meanwhile, Republican Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in 2019 that “it would be pretty hard to figure out who to compensate” as “none of us currently living are responsible” for the racist acts and policies 150 years ago.
Reparations activist and actor Danny Glover testified in support of HR-40 before the House Judiciary subcommittee in 2019.
However, Evanston’s leaders are working to get reparations rolling irregardless of the timeline in Washington, D.C.