A PLAN to award black Americans $25,000 each as part of a slavery reparations program in a Chicago suburb could be rolled out across the United States.
On Monday, the Evanston city council will vote on a $400,000 round of payments to provide black residents with funds for home repairs, down payments, or mortgage payments.
It will become the first US city to offer reparation money to black residents whose families suffered damage from discriminatory practices, including racist housing policies.
The city council has already committed $10million to the program over the next decade.
The $10million fund was raised from a three percent tax on the sale of recreational marijuana as it tries to address inequity in housing.
Once the program is underway, other cities looking to establish their own reparations plans could look to Evanston as a model.
Chicago; Providence, Rhode Island; Burlington, Vermont; Asheville, North Carolina; and Amherst, Massachusetts, are among the cities that have already launched initiatives supporting the awarding of reparations.
Yet, no specific funding has been identified to allow initiatives to move forward.
On a national level, a bill to establish a national reparations committees is sponsored by 170 Democratic members of Congress, but the practicality of implementing a program is still up for debate.
President Joe Biden has not endorsed the legislation but supports a study looking into the creation of a committee.
The potential committee has been discussed by the federal government for decades, yet the lack of progress led to the local council in Evanston creating their own Restorative Housing Reparations program.
The program in Evanston, home to northwestern University, was first established in 2019.
The payout is supposed to make amends for the racist housing policies over decades in the city, which is located north of downtown Chicago.
Black residents in the city were formerly subject to "redlining," a practice through which backs refused housing loans to predominantly black neighborhoods.
It kept black communities from home ownership, a key source of wealth.
To qualify, residents must have lived in Evanston between the years of 1919 and 1969, where they were discriminated against in terms of housing.
Residents are also eligible if they're a direct descendant of someone who suffered housing discrimination.
Opponents to the program noted that the first phase of $400,000 will only aid 16 people if handed out in $25,000 bundles, when there are 12,500 black people in the city.
“True reparations repair you – you get a chance to say what it is that repairs you,” said Rose Cannon, a member of the group Evanston Rejects Racist Reparations, who is black.
Even among those in support of the program, some activists have argued that the payments do not go far enough.
Rev Michael Nabors, president of the Evanston NAACP, thinks $25,000 is a "drop in the bucket."
"There is no amount of money in the world that can take the place of the pain and the suffering that was caused emotionally, that was caused psychologically," he said.
There is also concern that some of those eligible will have to submit a home loan application to apply.
Yet it was also referred to as a "nudge" in the right direction.
"We are fully aware that there is a lifetime of work ahead of us to justice and repair for the Black community," said Robin Rue Simmons, the 5th Ward Alderman who spearheaded Evanston's reparations program.
"And we're taking the first step."
“It’s about time that something has come from the hard work of African Americans in this city, proving that they should be treated as anyone else,” Delois Robinson, a black resident of the city, told Reuters.
The movement for reparations has gained traction in the last year following months of Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
However, a poll from Reuters/Ipsos in June 2020 found that only one in five agree the US should pay damages to descendants of enslaved people.
Opponents question whether taxpayers can afford to pay out trillions of dollars on a national program.
Others are sceptical that eligibility can be fairly determined.
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