Black residents to get reparations in Evanston, Illinois

  • Published
A man walks by a sign welcoming people to the city of in Evanston, Illinois, on March 16, 2021Image source, AFP/Getty Images
Image caption,
Evanston, voted 8-1 to distribute $25,000 each to 16 eligible black households

A suburb of Chicago is to become the first city in the United States to pay reparations to black residents who have suffered housing discrimination.

The city council in Evanston, Illinois, voted 8-1 to distribute $25,000 (£18,000) each to 16 eligible black households to use for home repairs or as down payments on property.

The funds come mostly from a new tax on legalised marijuana.

Black Americans were disadvantaged by racist housing decisions.

To be eligible, residents must be a black person who lived in Evanston between 1919 to 1969, or a descendant of such a person. The family must also have been a victim of discrimination in housing because of policies or practices in the city in that time.

Evanston has pledged distribute $10 million over a decade. Around 16% of the city's residents are black.

White residents in Evanston out-earn black residents by $46,000 a year.

"We're very excited to see the first national direct benefit from some of the harms we've had to experience from the past," Kamm Howard, co-chair of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, told CBS News.

"The more local initiatives occur, the more impetus there is on the federal government to act."

Image source, AFP/Getty Images
Image caption,
About 16% of Evanston residents are black

But not everyone has been supportive of reparations in this form.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, who is herself black and voted against the plan, said she supported reparations, but said the plan assumed black people could not manage their own money.

"True reparations should respect black people's autonomy and allow them to determine how repair will be managed," she said.

Discussions over how to address housing discrimination increased following a report last year that illustrated how black people had faced restrictions on where they could live dating back to 1855, when the first black resident arrived.

The impact over generations "was cumulative and permanent. They were the means by which legacies were limited and denied", the report stated.

A fair housing law was passed in Evanston in 1968, but evidence showed that black people were steered towards a section of town where they were the majority until 1985.

Hundreds of communities across the US are considering reparations to black people, including the state of California, Iowa City and Providence, Rhode Island.

But there is not a lot of support for such reparations in the US.

A Reuters/Ipsos survey last year found that just 20% of respondents backed using "taxpayer money to pay damages to descendants of enslaved people in the United States".

The movement towards some form of reparation for African Americans as a restitution for centuries of slavery and racism accelerated in the wake of the death of George Floyd last year. The unarmed black man died in Minneapolis while detained by police and this sparked worldwide protests.

You may also be interested in:

Media caption,

"To be a black woman right now, it’s painful": Activist and businesswoman Yandy Smith-Harris reacts to the Breonna Taylor case