Illinois city becomes first in nation to offer reparations to Black Americans

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(ABC)

Funds to be distributed from 3% tax on newly legal recreational marijuana sales

By ArLuther Lee, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Evanston, Illinois, has become the first city in the country to fund reparations in an effort to compensate Black Americans for the loss of generational wealth due to inequality and systemically racist policies that emerged after the era of slavery.

The 158-year-old city, located in Chicagoland along the north shore of Lake Michigan, plans to distribute $10 million in tax dollars to the cause over the next decade, with $25,000 payments to eligible residents beginning this spring, according to ABC News.

The program is being funded by a 3% tax on newly legal recreational marijuana sales.

The dispersals will be focused toward housing and will seek to remedy “a lack of affordability, lack of access to living wage careers here in the city, and a lack of sense of place,” said 5th Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, who has spearheaded the reparations effort since 2019, when Evanston first approved a resolution on the matter.

“It’s the most appropriate use for that sales tax,” Simmons told ABC. “In our city, 70% of the marijuana arrests were in the Black community. And we are 16% of the community. All studies show that Blacks and white [people] consume cannabis at the same rate.”

Simmons built a convincing case for reparations with the help of local historian Dino Robinson, who produced a 70-page report documenting racist and discriminatory practices dating to the late 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 about opposition to the plan. But, “the entire Black community historically has paid taxes but were not guaranteed the same benefits,” he said.

Robinson’s report highlighted how racial inequality came to thrive in the city through segregation and the federal practice of redlining, which deliberately sought to suppress wealth and lower property values in the Black community.

In Evanston, the practice — combined with Black codes and Jim Crow laws — relegated Black families to an area of the city that ultimately became the 5th Ward. For generations, the area had no access to basic public amenities and was choked off from wealth opportunities that were generally afforded to white people.

“Banks in Evanston would not loan to Black families for housing, [and] the real estate agencies would not show you anything other than the 5th Ward,” Robinson said.

White people who live in Evanston today make almost double the income and enjoy double the home value of their Black counterparts, according to U.S. Census data.

The wealth gap in Evanston reflects a consistent pattern that persists in nearly every city across the country.

Black Americans continue to possess less than 15% of the wealth that white Americans have, ABC reported, citing the Federal Reserve 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances.

Black residents who experienced redlining and their descendants are now eligible for reparations in Evanston.

The debate over reparations is one of the most divisive and controversial issues that has come up in Congress.

The phrase “40 acres and a mule” has resonated for Black people since the first days of life post-slavery, but the concept, despite being posed as legislation multiple times for at least the last three decades, has failed to become a reality for Black Americans who have waited more than 155 years for such a repayment.

What began as a promise made to freed slaves in 1865 has become a centuries-long pursuit. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, wants to turn pursuit into promise with House Resolution 40, a 31-year-old bill, first proposed in 1989 by Rep. John Conyers, that aims to create a committee tasked with developing a national plan for reparations. Conyers resurfaced H.R. 40 every year until he resigned in 2017, and now Lee has taken up the cause.

Last month, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony for and against the formation of the committee, which invited commentary from conservative talk show host Larry Elder, former NFL player Herschel Walker, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Missouri), California Secretary of State Shirley Weber and several others.

“My religion teaches togetherness. Reparations teaches separation,” Walker said in his testimony. “Slavery ended over 130 years ago. How can a father ask his son to do prison time for a crime he committed?”

Republicans have opposed reparations for some time. Sen. Mitch McConnell said in 2019 “it would be pretty hard to figure out who to compensate,” and said “none of us currently living are responsible” for what happened 150 years ago.

Congressional Democrats stand alone in support of the plan, which has yet to advance out of committee.

Stephanie Toone of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Really Reparations WOW!!!!! DO YOU HAVE TO PROVE THAT YOU ARE BLACK & HAD SLAVE ANCESTOR’S???? DO YOU HAVE TO BE A CERTAIN PERCENTAGE OF BLACK TO GET REPROATIONS????? BECAUSE MY MATERNAL GREAT GRANDMOTHER & GREAT GREAT GRANDMOTHER WERE MULOTTO & MY MATERNAL GREAT GREAT GRANDMOTHER WAS A SLAVE & WHY SHE USED A DIFFERENT NAME TO MARRY A WHITE GUY!!!!! EVEN THOUGH I AM WHITE DO I GET REPARATIONS????? MY MATERNAL & PATERNAL GRANDFATHER’S SIDE FOUGHT TO RELEASE SLAVES!!!! THEY FOUGHT, WERE MAMED & DIED TO FREE SLAVES!!!!! DO I GET REPARATIONS FOR THAT!!!! HEY DUMB FUCK’S!!!!!!!! WHITE PEOPLE HAVE MORE FUCKING MONEY BECAUSE THEY BUSTED THEIR ASSES TO WORK MULTIPLE JOBS TO GET WHERE THEY ARE!!!!! THEIR FAMILY’S MANAGED THEIR MONEY WISELY & LEFT IT IS THEIR KIDS & GRAND KIDS!!!!! SO IT IS RACIST TO SAY THAT BLACK PEOPLE ARE DISPARAGED FINANCIALLY!!!! HERE IS AN IDEA ALL WHITE PEOPLE QUIT YOUR JOBS & STAND IN THOSE WELFARE LINES WHERE YOU DON’T SEE WHITE PEOPLE BECAUSE THEY ARE ALWAYS TURNED DOWN FOR WELFARE & SECETION 8!!!!!!!!! THAT IS DISCRIMINATION!!!!!! TO ALL WHITE PEOPLE QUIT YOUR DAM JOBS & STOP PAYING ANY TAXES & COLLECT WELFARE AS IT IS DISCRIMINATION REFUSEING WHITE PEOPLE FREE SECTION 8 RENT, WELFARE, FOOD STAMPS, MEDICAID & FREE CHILD BIRTH FOR EVERY CHILD THAT THEY DON’T SUPPORT! SO THE BLACK PEOPLE CAN GET EXPENSIVE PHONES, HAIR DOO’S, EXPENSIVE NAILS & EXPENSIVE VEHICLES IF THEY DON’T STEAL THEM!!!!! IT WON’T MATTER TO BLACK PEOPLE HOW MUCH FREE STUFF THAT THEY ALREADY GET!!!!! IT DON’T MATTER HOW MUCH REPROATIONS THAT THEY GET THEY WILL STILL CALL ALL WHITE PEOPLE RACIST, WHITE ENTITLED & WHITE PRIVLEDGES WHICH IS RACIST ITSELF!!!! THEY WILL STILL COMMIT CRIMES EVEN MORE SO BECAUSE THEY KNOW NOTHING WILL HAPPEN TO THEM & POLICE WON’T STOP THEM & THEY WILL GET OUT OF JAILL WITH NO BOND TO GO COMMIT MORE CRIME WITH IN AN HOUR!!! IT IS MADNESS!!! I WANT MY FUCKING REPROATIONS!!!!!!! ALL BLACK PEOPLE & ALL PEOPLE OF ALL COLOR’S ARE POOR UNLESS THEY ARE ELDERLY AND OR UNABLE TO WORK AND HAVE MEDICAL PROBLEMS BECAUSE THEY REFUSE TO WORK TO GET OUT OF BEING POOR!!!! I AM WHITE & GREW UP POOR & HOMELESS & ABUSED WITH LOTS OF SEVERE MEDICAL PROBLEMS & CHOOSE TO BUST MY ASS TO MOVE UP IN THE WORLD & NOT TO STAY POOR!!!! NOT TO MAKE BAD CHOICES!!! I WAS DISCRIMINATED AGAINST TRYING TO GET DISABILITY BASED ON MY AGE & A VERY LITTLE BIT OF COLLEGE EDUCATION & BECAUSE I WAS WHITE!!!!! I WAS REFUSED DISABILITY & SO WAS MY YOUNGER MENTALLY ILL WHITE BROTHER!!!!! MENTALLY ILL & UNDER PHYCIATRIC HELP SINCE HE WAS FOUR YEAR’S OLD!!!! WE BOTH WERE REFUSED DISABILITY FOR 4 YEAR’S EACH!!!!!! YET BLACK PEOPLE GET DISABILITY JUST LIKE THAT & RIGHT AWAY!!!! TALK ABOUT DISCRIMINATION

  2. THE FACT THAT BLACK PEOPLE SAY THAT THEY CAN’T & DON’T DISCRIMINATE IS IMPOSSIBLE IS IGNORANT & UNTRUE!!!!! WHY FUCKING NOT BECAUSE THEY DO IT ALL THE TIME!!!!!!! ALWAYS SAYING WHITE PEOPLE THIS & WHITE PEOPLE THAT & SNOW FLAKE THIS & SNOW FLAKE THAT & CRACKER THIS & CRACKER THAT!!!! WHY CAN’T THEY NOT DISCRIMINATE BECAUSE THEY SAY SO!!!!!! BULL FUCKING SHIT!!!!! GUESS WHAT I DON’T FOLLOW THE TREND OF WHAT GOES ON & AGREE TO OTHER PEOPLE BECAUSE I AM SOCIETY SAY’S SO & BULLIE’S PEOPLE INTO AGREEING & BULLIED INTO APOLOGIZING JUST BECAUSE SOMEBODY SAYS TO & THEN IT ISN’T ACCEPTED ANYWAY!!!! YES!!!!!! BLACK PEOPLE DO & DOES ALL THE TIME DISCRIMINATE AGAINS WHITE PEOPLE & WHY IS THAT FUCKING OK!! WE LIVE IN A FREE COUNTRY & I FUCKING WON’T APOLOGIZE FOR OFFENDING YOU BY SOMETHING I SAY & DO BECAUSE I LIVE IN A FUCKING FREE COUNTY & WE ALL DO!!!!!! I WILL SAY & DO WHAT I WANT TO DO & IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT TO FUCKING BAD WALK AWAY! THAT IS MY U.S. CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT!!!! LOOK IT UP DUMB ASSESSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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