Reparations or Housing Program?

Evanston: Reparations Or Housing Program?

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On Tuesday morning, people’s timelines are flooded with the news that Evanston, Illinois, became the first U.S. city to make reparations available to its Black residents.

The Chicago suburb’s City Council voted 8-1 to distribute $400,000 to Black households deemed eligible and the city has vowed to disseminate $10 million over the next decade.

The fight for American descendants of slaves to receive reparations has been an ongoing one, and to some, it may seem that Evanston has taken a great leap forward.

“Right now the whole world is looking at Evanston, Illinois. This is a moment like none other that we’ve ever seen, and it’s a good moment,” said Ron Daniels, president of the National African American Reparations Commission.

Each qualifying household would receive $25,000 for home repairs or down payments on property and is being funded through donations and revenue from a 3% tax on the sale of recreational marijuana.

To qualify, residents must prove they are direct descendants of individuals who lived in the city between 1919 and 1969 and were subjected to discriminatory housing policies.

Evanston has set precise criteria in regards to how its Black residents can benefit from the program.

“It’s a first tangible step,” said Alderwoman Robin Rue Simmons, who led the campaign. “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.”

But not all were in favor of the program. Alderwoman Cicely Fleming was the only council member to vote against the plan.

And her objections seem valid.

Fleming argued that the program does not give Black residents enough of a say in how reparations will be distributed, instead suggesting cash payments were a more suitable form of reparations.

“Let’s not short-change Black people on something they’ve been waiting centuries for,” Fleming said. She is against the bill being labeled “reparations.”

Fleming says it is a “housing program.”

“True reparations should respect Black people’s autonomy and allow them to determine how repair will be managed, including cash payments as an option,” Fleming said. “They are being denied that in this proposal, which gives money directly to the banks or contractors on their behalf.”

She added: “As a stand-alone housing program, I support this. I cannot support this plan being called reparations.”

A reparations bill, known as H.R. 40 — named for the “40 acres and a mule” been introduced in every Congress for more than three decades. Before taking office, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris both said they supported a reparations “study.” Their commitment has not gone much further.

Last month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated Biden’s stance.

“It’s working its way through Congress,” Psaki told reporters. “We’d certainly support a study, but we’ll see what happens through the legislative process.”

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