The nation's first government-backed reparations initiative was green lit this week in Evanston, Illinois, a Chicago suburb where about 16 percent of its 75,000 residents are Black. The city council has promised $10 million over 10 years. John Yang discusses how the program could serve as a model for the rest of the country with Ron Daniels of the National African American Reparations Commission.
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The nation's first government-backed reparations initiative for Black Americans was approved this week in Evanston, Illinois. It is a program that could serve as a model for reparations efforts across the country.
John Yang has the story. It's part of our Race Matters series.
Judy, Evanston, Illinois, is a suburb on Chicago's North Side lakefront. It's the home of Northwestern University. About 16 percent of its 75,000 residents are Black.
This week, the Evanston City Council voted 8-1 to begin making good on its promise to spend $10 million in reparations over 10 years, first up, $400,000 to compensate for past discriminatory housing practices, individual grants of up to $25,000 per person to Black residents who can show they or their families lived in the city between 1919 and 1969.
The money can be used for down payments, mortgage payments, repairs and home improvements. Almost all the money will come from taxes on the sale of recreational marijuana.
Dr. Ron Daniels is the convener of the National African American Reparations Commission. And he joins us now.
Dr. Daniels, thanks so much for being with us.
What's the significance of what Evanston City Council did this week? This has been a topic of discussion for a very long time, but this appears to be the first government to actually do something about it.
Dr. Ron Daniels:
The significance is that Evanston now becomes a model. It becomes a blueprint for reparations initiatives across the country.
And there are other cities who are quite interested in this as well, so, Providence, Rhode Island, Asheville, North Carolina, Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington. There are a number of cities that are interested in this. And so this becomes the blueprint. And it's very significant because, beyond the idea of it, we now have a tangible example of moving from idea to public policy. And Evanston has set the tone.
And it's also been a topic of discussion in Congress. There have been discussions about bills that would provide federal — national reparations.
Do you think that is — it's going to give that effort an impetus as well?
There's no question about it.
And it's really a kind of synergistic relationship between Evanston and a number of cities around the country, because many of them have endorsed H.R.40. Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, who led the effort in Evanston, certainly was instrumental in getting that done.
And at the federal level, the brilliant and courageous leadership of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has moved us to the point where I would predict, within the next — maybe in the next three months or so, we will actually have a commission set up that will study and develop reparations proposals for African Americans.
That's a huge development. And it also enjoys the support of Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, Steny Hoyer, and, of course, powered by a tremendous coalition of organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union, and COBRA, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, National Council of Churches, Human Rights Watch, Center for American Progress.
This is an incredible moment in the history of the United States of America.
I want to ask you about the specifics of what Evanston did this week.
The one no-vote on the City Council came from Cicely Fleming. She's a Black member of the council. She argued that the specifics of how this money should be spent was almost paternalistic. She said that the injured party should be the one to dictate and decide what reparations are.
What do you think of that?
Well, she's correct. What she's incorrect about is not understanding that the reason why the National African American Reparations Commission certified Evanston as a model is because we were very deeply involved in helping them to put the program together.
And when Alderman Robin Rue Simmons and her colleagues did town hall meetings and hearings across the city, what came back from the persons who are affected was over and over again housing, housing, housing, housing.
And so, therefore, that's why the initial reparatory housing initiative was conceived by the stakeholders, and it went to the Reparations Subcommittee and ultimately approved by City Council.
So, I think that the alderwoman has her right to her opinion, and we think that's good. We need a lot of debate, a lot of discussion. There were others who thought it should be cash payments and so forth. All of that, quite frankly, is positive, because this is not the end of the initiative, Evanston, Illinois'. This is really the beginning.
There will be many, many other opportunities in order to have reparations initiatives.
I should say this, however. The relationship between the national and the federal is, it will really take federal legislation to really create the large amount of resources to deal with the injury over the centuries. No amount of money is enough or cash or whatever is enough.
But at least the federal government, under the leadership of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and the coalition I referenced, will be the way in which this ultimately does the kind of repair that's needed.
Dr. Ron Daniels of the National African American Reparations Commission, thank you very much.