This article appeared in the March 24, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Can Black reparations be made practical? A first step by one city.

Eileen T. Meslar/Reuters
Evanston Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, who spearheaded the city’s reparations initiative, poses near her home in the Fifth Ward in Evanston, Illinois, March 19, 2021.

The headlines proclaimed Evanston, Illinois, the “first US city to make reparations to Black residents.” 

Well, yes, and no. 

The term “reparations” is often used to mean paying money to the descendants of enslaved people in the United States. But in this case, it’s about making amends for systemic racism in housing, also known as redlining. 

Evanston officials voted Monday to distribute $10 million over the next 10 years to Black residents who suffered housing discrimination. They must either have lived in – or been a direct descendant of a Black person who lived in – Evanston from 1919 to 1969. Each qualifying household will receive up to $25,000 for home repairs, mortgage assistance, or a down payment on a mortgage. Distribution of funds will begin in the next few months. 

The money will come mostly from taxes collected from sales of recreational marijuana and some private donations.

“It is the start,” Robin Rue Simmons, an Evanston alderman, told The New York Times. “It is the reckoning. We’re really proud as a city to be leading the nation toward repair and justice.”

Several other U.S. cities are considering similar steps, including Amherst, MassachusettsProvidence, Rhode Island; and Asheville, North Carolina.

Progress is often incremental. But once one runner breaks the 4-minute mile, the impossible becomes attainable (and more than 1,550 others have now done it). If one community can find a way to make amends for racial injustice, can others be far behind?

This article appeared in the March 24, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 03/24 edition
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