Evanston, Illinois will be known for more than Northwestern University moving forward. The Illinois city has become the first city in the United States to offer "reparations" to Black residents. Proposed by Alderman Rue Simmons, the city's plan will offer residents $10 million over the course of a decade through mortgage assistance and other forms of community development. This program is being powered by donations and a 3% tax on the sale of recreational marijuana. All Black residents who are the direct descendant of a person who lived in Evanston from 1919 through 1969 are eligible for reparations from the city.
“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 told the HuffPost.
The reparations plan was pushed through by a vote of 8-1. The lone city council member to vote against the plan was Cicely Fleming. Contrary to popular belief, she does support reparations for Black residents in the city. However, she feels that the plan that was approved is not exactly reparations. Instead, she feels that it is a housing plan for Black residents in the area that assumes they can't take care of their own money. Instead of creating a mortgage assistance program, Fleming believes that local residents should have been able to dictate how they would like their reparations to be distributed.
Other critics have also pointed out that the plan is not as widespread as many would like it to be. Early reports indicate that the first $400,000 distributed from the $10 million plan will come in the form of $25,000 mortgage assistance grants. As a result, only 16 families in a city of roughly 75,000 people will benefit from this. Furthermore, the city is dictating how the funds must be spent, which contradicts the overall idea of reparations.
"Evanston’s government is asking Black people they harmed to 'trust us...more is coming,' when we have not yet earned their trust. The mistrust is amplified by telling the world that our actions are historic, precedent-setting, and replicable. Again, they are historic in name only," Fleming tweeted.
Moving forward, other cities and institutions will likely consider similar plans. At the state level, California has considered offering reparations and colleges like Georgetown University have considered offering reparations. However, nothing has come from these preliminary discussions.
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